Wake County Commissioners are considering giving themselves a 132% raise this year, from $28,588 to more than $66,000. This is incredibly imprudent as a fiscal matter. It is also remarkably tone deaf at a time when real wages all over the state are declining in the face of the worst inflation in 40 years.
But there is a more concerning aspect to the proposed raise than its sheer enormity. That aspect is the Commissioners’ characterization of their role as “full-time” to justify the increase. Commission Chairman Sig Hutchinson was quoted as saying: “This is truly a full-time job. The more time you put in this job, the more you get done.”
There is so much wrong with that statement. Government should strive to provide those services that government is best suited to provide, and it should strive to provide them as efficiently as possible. There are very few things that government is best suited to provide, and that is just as true in Wake County as any other jurisdiction.
That is why Wake County Commissioner is intended to be a part-time position. If, as Mr. Hutchinson suggests, Commissioners are spending full time hours every week doing Commission business, then they are doing it wrong.
The role of the Commission is to set the property tax rate, regulate land use and zoning outside of municipalities, and adopt the County’s annual budget. The County already has a competent set of staff to carry on important activities day-to-day.
The expansion of the Commissioners’ perceived role for themselves is an excellent example of Parkinson’s Law, but is terrible for Wake County residents. Nearly anything that government tries to do costs money, and the more time Commissioners spend trying to do more things, regardless of merit or marginal efficiency, the more money it will eventually cost. That always translates to higher taxes.
The only exception is the introduction of government mandates, something the Commission spent a lot of time on recently. Such mandates do not necessarily require additional tax dollars, but they infringe heavily on individual rights and can wreak extraordinary economic damage (think lockdowns).
Exacerbating the issue is the introduction of a retirement benefit. Retirement benefits are generally reserved for careers. The last thing we need is a set of Commissioners that fancies themselves career mandarins. If the current Commissioners expect to make a career out of being Commissioners, then they not only risk overestimating their worth, they risk underestimating the expectations of voters.
Service as a Commissioner is a public service, and a part-time one at that. Commissioners would do well to remember that.
Irina Comer lives in Cary