NEW HANOVER COUNTY –– A resolution that challenged two commissioners to stand by their statements and forgo their allocated pay raises after publicly condemning the new budget was pulled from the agenda late Monday night after news spread about the retaliation.
Slated for review Tuesday morning during the commissioners’ meeting, the “County Commissioner Enhanced Compensation” resolution specifically named Rob Zapple and Deb Hays, who were both quoted in Wilmington StarNews denouncing their 74% bump in compensation. Both also voiced concerns about the fiscal year 2022 budget before it passed 3-2, without their support, at the June 7 meeting.
The same day the newspaper published its article, Chair Julia Olson-Boseman requested the county manager, Chris Coudriet, draft a resolution for Zapple and vice-chair Hays to retain their current salary and benefits. She told Port City Daily she did not want them to feel “forced to take money that they don’t want.” A county spokesperson confirmed a majority of the board members agreed to place the item on the agenda.
Around 10:30 p.m. Monday, hours after Port City Daily first reported on the resolution, the chair emailed the county manager and directed him to remove the item.
The chair explained early in Tuesday’s meeting the commissioners chose to pull the item after determining the officials could decide individually whether to accept the extra pay. In a phone interview, Zapple declined to provide specifics but said the commissioners typically converse one-on-one regarding agenda items ahead of meetings.
“There’s common agreement among the five commissioners that this was the best way to do it,” he said. “Rather than to try and have conversations on these issues, specifically, the pay raise, from the dais.”
According to the drafted language in the resolution, it is not county practice for people on the payroll to decline compensation at their discretion. The spokesperson clarified commissioners are still allowed to reject their pay despite this norm.
Zapple indicated he was pleased the item was removed, and he hoped it would grant the commissioners and county staff time to revisit the significant rate increases, which were spoken little about prior to the budget passing and received widespread pushback from the community. The issue of a proposed property tax increase dominated the conversation during the June 7 meeting, and Zapple described the motion to pass the budget as abrupt.
Before the vote, Hays motioned to delay action and seek alternative funding sources to avoid a property tax increase. She failed to gain support from board members other than Zapple.
Zapple clarified he is not opposed to a modest pay increase, “but the size of that is really what I was objecting to.”
Effective next month, the recently passed budget will raise commissioners’ salaries from an annual $17,890 to $31,200, and the chair’s from $26,074 to $39,000, a nearly 50% increase.
Port City Daily has reached out to Olson-Boseman and Hays for comment and will update this article if and when they respond.
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