County pay outweighs city councils’

Published 9:39 pm Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The role of a Pike County Commissioner and that of a Troy and Brundidge City Councilman may not seem too different on paper.

All are charged as representatives of local government. All attend two meetings each month, and all have positions considered part time.

But, when it comes to compensation, a Pike County Commissioner heads home with a heftier reward.

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A commissioners’ starting salary is around $20,900 a year, but the amount varies between commissioners based on annual raises earned through the years.

The Troy City Council members each earn less than half of that amount, equaling an annual $9,600.

Troy council members make $400 a meeting and $800 a month, compared to commissioners’ roughly $870 per meeting and $1,740 a month.

Brundidge Council members are paid $500 a month, which totals $6,000 a year.

In addition, commissioners also receive benefits that other full-time county employees receive but part-time employees don’t — health insurance, life insurance and retirement.

That amount totals about $6,780 per commissioner, for a total of about $41,000 spent on benefits, said Chief Financial Officer Debra Gibson. Gibson said all commissioners receive these benefits now.

The county government does manage offices dealing with the entire Pike County population, while the city only governs matters within city limits.

Troy city officials are offered the options of receiving city health insurance, but they have to pay the costs themselves. Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford said he’s not sure if any of the current council takes advantage of these benefits.

Commission Chairman Robin Sullivan said he’s not sure why there is difference in pay between the two, but he believes the commissioners are not adequately compensated for their time.

“It’s two separate entities, and I don’t have much of a comment for that,” Sullivan said. “I’m not complaining because I’m not in this for the money. (But) it’s a lot of time spent away from family.”

Sullivan said he isn’t sure why commissioners receive insurance benefits that other part-time county workers do not, but he said it is something he feels is deserved.

Council President Johnny Witherington said he couldn’t speak for all council members, but he said he does think his pay is sufficient.

“I personally feel like I am very adequately compensated for the time that I spend during a normal month dealing with city council matters,” Witherington said.

Both Witherington and Sullivan said while the positions are classified as part-time, work loads often seem to be that of full-time jobs.

“There’s a lot more to it than attending meetings,” Witherington said. “There’s an enormous amount of correspondence we receive every day.”

The Troy Council salary has changed once since 1996, when an ordinance was passed in 2000 giving council members an extra $800 per year, said Troy City Clerk Alton Starling.

Gibson said the commissioners’ salary was set in 2001 when the State Legislature passed a bill giving elected officials boosts in their salaries each time a cost of living raise is passed locally.

That changed the compensation from around $17,000 to the current rate for each time a cost of living raise has been granted to county employees. The cost of living raise is not the same as the annual guaranteed 3-percent anniversary raise, which all county employees receive on the anniversary of their date of hire.

In 2000, when the City of Troy changed council pay, its budget totaled around $25 million. Last year, the city passed a budget of $42 million.

Gibson said she was unsure how much the commission budget was in 2001, but last year’s total budget was around $12 million.