Digging into the compensation

Posted by Dan Barkin on December 30, 2013 

Much of what state and local governments spend money on is compensation. And we’ve been seeing some curious things about this compensation.

Staying on top of pay and perks is important, because we want state and local spending to stretch as far as possible.

Dan Kane’s story on the Parkwood Volunteer Fire Department Sunday raised some questions. Looking a records from the State Treasurer’s Office, Kane discovered that the Durham department spent more than 10 percent of its total pay on overtime. This was the highest percentage of any agency in the state pension system.

In November, Kane, staff writers Colin Campbell and Andrew Kenney, and David Raynor, our database expert, had a series called “Checks Without Balances.” One story looked at the Raleigh Housing Authority’s executive director. His annual compensation topped $280,000 in 2011.

Another story detailed how several community college presidents got their pensions boosted significantly.

Last June, we learned via staff writer J. Andrew Curliss’ reporting that the head of the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center, who has since resigned, was being compensated around $283,000 annually.

One of our state government reporters, John Frank, had a story last week that described how Lt. Gov. Dan Forest wants to raise teacher pay substantially.

I have a suggestion for the lieutenant governor that comes out of any biography about Harry Truman. Yeah, I know he was a Democrat and you’re a Republican, but stay with me.

As a senator, Truman made his reputation heading a committee that traveled the country looking for waste. The government was spending massively on defense contracts during World War II. Truman’s mission was to ensure that it was being spent well, and not lining contractors’ pockets. His efforts were very successful and the publicity propelled him to the vice presidency.

We need something like this in North Carolina, and a place for an investigation to start would be a good look at the kinds of pay and perk deals that our reporters discovered. We have just scratched the surface. This is where, I’ll bet, you can find a good chunk of money for teachers, lieutenant governor. And, shoot, look where Truman ended up.

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