The Lumberton Board of Aldermen has approved pay raises for all board members, along with the mayor, but time will tell whether the city leaders will keep the money or donate it back to the city.
During a special-called meeting last week, the board voted 3-0 in favor of a $320-per-month raise across the board, which will tentatively bring the mayor’s salary to $920 a month and board members’ salaries to $720 a month. With the vote, each member of board and the mayor have the option of accepting the money or donating that increase back to Lumberton.
Ward 1 Alderman Johnny Buckley and Ward 2 Alderwoman Susan Crittenden were absent from the meeting.
“I didn’t put this on the agenda – this was done by the board during our budget hearing,” Mayor Quincy Rogers said. “It is at the discretion of the council and the mayor whether they accept this amount – that has not been decided yet.
“I don’t know if they will, and I don’t know if I will. That’s an individual thing.”
Another agenda item, which dealt with amending the budget to reflect and offset a pay increase from Police Chief Adam Jones to all department heads, died for lack of a motion. Under that proposal, the chief’s recent $3,000 pay raise – which brought his salary from $35,000 to $38,000 – would have been split between Jones, the court clerk, city clerk and public works director.
“Each of our department heads makes around $35,000 and some change yearly,” Rogers said. “My question was, (Jones’) raise wasn’t fair to the rest of the department heads – I thought if there would be a raise for one department head, then it should be across the board.
“So the additional monies that brought him up to the $38,000, I wanted that portion broken down and given back to all four department heads."
A third item regarding pay raises – a measure to increase public works employees’ hourly pay by $1 – also died for lack of a motion. Rogers said he included that item on the agenda to compensate for the recent loss of city workers’ insurance necessitated by budget cuts.
“Our public works employees (recently) received a $3 raise,” he said. “So without the insurance, I thought we’d be able to give them anywhere from $4 to $5 extra an hour, which would bring them to the point to be able to go to the health market and get insurance.
“So that’s why I wanted the additional dollar, to go along with what they’d previously gotten.”
Some residents at the meeting, such as Sandy Kee, were in vehement disagreement with the raises authorized for the mayor and board, especially because the other two pay raise-related items were not acted upon.
“The only thing the board agreed upon was their own increase – that’s the bottom line,” Kee told board members. “The only job that the employees of this city have is their day-to-day, but mayor and aldermen, that’s your secondary job.
“There is a difference. You took this job to help Lumberton, not for monetary reasons. Alderman is not your livelihood, but for these people that work for the city of Lumberton, that is their livelihood.”
But Alderwoman-at-Large Tina Speights said the raises were well-deserved.
“The employees have already got their raise – they got their raise long before we did,” she said. “Every day, our phones ring with some citizen with a concern or asking a question, and we handle it.
“You don’t see what we do – you don’t see how many hours we sit at home and read documents so we can try to make the best decisions for the city. You don’t see what goes on behind the scenes.”