The county and its towns have just adopted their 2016-17 budgets, and one of those towns chose to give its mayor and council members considerable pay raises.
Selma’s budget raised Mayor Cheryl Oliver’s pay from $2,400 per year to $7,200, an increase of 200 percent. Council members saw their pay climb from $1,800 per year to $4,800; that’s a 167-percent boost.
Among Johnston County and its towns, Selma now ranks third in pay for elected leaders.
Clayton Mayor Jody McLeod is the highest-paid elected official in Johnston County, earning $9,012 a year. Tony Braswell, chairman of the Johnston County Board of Commissioners, is next, earning $7,583.76.
Third in line is Oliver, whose pay also now ranks second among Johnston County mayors. Clayton’s council members come in fourth place overall.
In addition to pay, most elected leaders in Johnston also receive benefits – medical, dental and, or life insurance – along with gear, like cellphones and tablets.
Selma’s pay increases would appear to be out of step relative to the town’s demographics. Selma’s population – 6,307 in 2015 – is about half that of Smithfield’s, which was 12,022 in the same year. The town’s median household income is about $9,000 less than Smithfield’s – $23,498 vs. $32,403.
Also, more than 42 percent of Selma citizens are in poverty, compared to 25.8 percent in Smithfield and 15.3 percent countywide.
Oliver defended the raises, saying a pay study found that Selma salaries were low while its benefits were high. In response, she said, Selma agreed to raise pay while nixing medical benefits next Jan. 1.
“This year we got a consensus on the council to eliminate major medical, which is becoming a very unpredictable cost,” Oliver said. “That led us to the salary discussion, and there was a consensus again to achieve the salaries quoted. That corrects an imbalance.”
Oliver said she expected the new pay to remain in place for years to come.
“The salaries we had had been in place for decades,” she said. “This is not something we would continue raising every year. We believe it reflects what truly is required of the positions. A lot of time and effort goes into adequately leading a town.”
The council was unanimous in its decision to raise its pay while ending medical benefits. Oliver said she’s heard positive comments from citizens, and she noted that no one spoke against the council raising its pay.
“I’m sure there’s got to be folks who are negative about it,” she said. “There are some who would be negative about an increase in anything. I really hope that folks who have that negative view will give myself or a council member a call and let us talk it through.”
Oliver said she thinks most Selma citizens are unaware of what the council does.
“I hope citizens will say they’re getting their money’s worth,” she said. “We view it as compensation, not a salary. It certainly still is by myself and council members as a position of service, and nobody’s in it for the money.”
Abbie Bennett: 919-553-7234, Ext. 101; @AbbieRBennett
What they make
Here’s what elected leaders in Johnston County earn in pay and benefits.
Clayton Town Council – mayor pay, $9,012; council pay, $6,676; benefits, health and dental insurance, $10,000 in life insurance, $60 per month vehicle allowance, $53.02 per month for the mayor’s cellphone, $38.01 per month for Councilman Bob Satterfield to have a wireless data card for his laptop, iPads. In Clayton, pay last changed in 2015, when the mayor and council got 1.5 percent bumps; also that year, the council added the vehicle allowance.
Johnston County Board of Commissioners – chairman, $7,583.76; commissioners, $5,589.48; benefits, health and dental insurance, individual and dependent life insurance, $400 monthly travel stipend for commissioners, $500 monthly travel stipend for chairman, mileage reimbursement for travel outside the county, reimbursement for out-of-town travel including hotel and meal costs and iPads.
Selma – mayor, $7,200; council; $4,800; benefits, life and health insurance that expire after Jan. 1, 2017, reimbursement for travel and training.
Smithfield – mayor: $6,000; council, $4,000; mileage reimbursement, tablet and laptops. Salaries last changed in July 2014, when the mayor received $1,624 more and council members got a $1,442 raise.
Benson – mayor, $4,200; commissioners: $2,700; benefits, life insurance, mileage reimbursement, iPads. Salaries have been the same for at least six years.
Archer Lodge – mayor, $2,400; council: $1,200; benefits, phone reimbursement at $49 per month, mileage reimbursement, iPads and tablets. Salaries last changed in 2013, when the mayor got a $900 raise.
Princeton – mayor, $1,500; commissioners, $1,200; no benefits. Salaries last changed in 2006 when the mayor and commissioners got $300 raises.
Wilson’s Mills – mayor, $1,200; council, $720; benefits, mileage reimbursement. Salaries last changed in 2008.
Four Oaks – mayor, $1,080; council, $900; benefits, none. Salaries last changed in June 2015, when the mayor and council got $360 raises.
Pine Level – mayor, $1,320, but the current mayor accepts no pay; commissioners, $600; benefits, none. Salaries have been the same since 2007.
Kenly – Mayor, $600; council, $480; benefits, none. Salaries have been the same for at least 10 years.
Micro – The Town of Micro did not respond to requests for mayor and council pay and benefits information.