NEW HANOVER COUNTY –– Last week two New Hanover County commissioners voted against and publicly criticized the recently adopted budget, which simultaneously raised both property taxes and the officials’ annual stipends. Now, they are being challenged to pass a resolution Tuesday to decline their allocated pay raise.
Titled “County Commissioner Enhanced Compensation,” the resolution specifically targets Rob Zapple and Deb Hays, denying the commissioners enhanced compensation provided in the fiscal year 2022 budget.
At the request of Chair Julia Olson-Boseman, county manager Chris Coudriet drafted the agenda item and delivered her a copy via email Friday at 2 p.m. The chair requested the resolution in light of a Wilmington Star-News article, published that morning, in which Zapple and vice-chair Hays were quoted criticizing the budget and pay increases, according to emails obtained by Port City Daily.
“It’s not supposed to be a full-time job,” Hays was quoted saying in the newspaper. “It is very taxing, it does take quite a bit of time, but you balance that.”
Zapple told the outlet it didn’t “sit well” with him to take a raise at the same time property owners were paying more taxes, which he and Hays also expressed at the meeting on June 7 before voting against the budget.
“I respect their principles and don’t want them to [be] forced to take money that they don’t want,” Olson-Boseman wrote to Port City Daily in an email.
The two commissioners were the two sole votes against passing the $458-million fiscal year 2022 budget, adopted in a 3-2 vote. The budget increased the commissioners’ pay 74% from an annual $17,890 to $31,200, and the chair 49%, from $26,074 to $39,000.
Before the vote, Hays motioned to delay action on the item to find alternative funding sources to prevent the property tax increase, a failed attempt that only earned the support of Zapple.
If passed, the resolution would retain Hays’ and Zapple’s current salary and benefits.
Coudriet sent the resolution two-and-a-half hours after Olson-Boseman requested it. “Perfect,” the chair wrote back.
New Hanover County Commissioners and staff members can bring forth additional, time-sensitive items for the agenda, according to a county spokesperson. The spokesperson confirmed the compensation resolution received a majority “vote” for placement on the agenda. (Public bodies often reach consensus on items outside of public meetings through one-on-one conversations, to more quickly advance action and avoid violating open meetings law.)
Reached by phone Monday, Hays said she was tied up for the afternoon and couldn’t comment, adding “the story would be had tomorrow.” Port City Daily has reached out to Zapple and will update this article when and if he responds.
The commissioners meeting will be held at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, June 22, in the New Hanover County Courthouse, located at 24 N. Third St. in Room 301.
This article has been updated to include Olson-Boseman’s response.
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