State workers’ October paychecks will include a one-time bonus approved by the legislature this summer – prompting critics of Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration to question if the boost was deliberately scheduled to coincide with the election.
Office of State Human Resources interim director Paula Woodhouse sent out a memo this week detailing the plan for bonuses, which she notes “are made possible by House Bill 1030, which was signed into law by Governor Pat McCrory in July 2016.”
All state workers will receive a one-time bonus equal to 0.5 percent of their annual salary. Additionally, some employees will get a merit-based bonus – $475 if their performance rating is “meets expectations” and $700 if it’s “exceeds expectations.”
The State Employees Association of North Carolina, or SEANC, criticized the timing of the bonuses Tuesday. SEANC has endorsed McCrory’s Democratic opponent, attorney general Roy Cooper.
“The timing of this clearly is a political stunt,” said Ardis Watkins, SEANC’s director of government relations. “Once again, Gov. McCrory has underestimated the intelligence of state employees. They’re not falling for this political trick.”
Watkins said she doesn’t recall any previous bonuses being issued in October. In past years, employees have received bonuses in December or shortly after the budget was approved, she said.
The Office of State Human Resources disputes the claim that the timing is politically motivated.
“The timing of the employee compensation bonuses was defined by legislation,” spokesman David Prickett said. “The merit-based bonuses are based on annual performance evaluations and that process concluded in September.”
McCrory campaign spokesman Ricky Diaz says SEANC’s statement is “a ridiculous claim.”
“This has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the success of Gov. McCrory’s policies, which have helped to grow the economy, impose fiscal responsibility on state government and deliver major budget surpluses that can be used to invest in education, teachers, state employees, transportation and other key priorities,” Diaz said.
In addition to the bonuses, all state workers received a 1.5 percent raise, and state leaders budgeted $80 million for targeted merit raises, which would average 1 percent of employee salaries.
State retirees are receiving a one-time cost-of-living adjustment equal to 1.6 percent of their annual retirement benefit. Retirees will receive that bonus in their October payment, according to the state treasurer’s office.
SEANC says the raises are inadequate in a year when the state had a budget surplus. “The whole idea of the bonus instead of a good raise was very offensive,” Watkins said.
She says the organization is hearing complaints that the merit-based bonuses have resulted in supervisors “playing favorites.”
“There is great uncertainty in some of these agencies and departments about whether the supervisors have given people an evaluation that is objective and fair,” Watkins said.