Monday, February 6, 2023

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Another high-handed bureaucratic spending decision

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There’s an old expression, more commonly used in northern areas with larger Jewish populations, “What am I, chopped liver,” by which the speaker questions why he or she was being ignored during a particular group discussion.

We can understand if county commissioners felt that way this week after county manager Heidi York nonchalantly informed them that she had authorized about $877,572 in higher salaries for employees of the Alamance County sheriff’s office, all in the ongoing multi-jurisdictional competition for law enforcement officers.

Last week, we criticized Elon town manager Richard Roedner for his chutzpah in unilaterally deciding to institute a pay raise for town police officers, similarly notifying councilmen of his decision, rather than asking for their approval.

As we noted, decisions on budget authorizations and appropriations are supposed to be in the purview of elected officials, not bureaucrats – neither those working for towns and cities, like Roedner, nor for county governments, like York.

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Let us stress again: our objection is not so much with whether law enforcement deserves higher salaries, but with the process by which they are awarded.

As with Roedner’s presumptuous decision to usurp the role of councilmen by single-handedly instituting such a raise, York’s action was even more high-handed because the monetary impact was so much more huge.

Indeed, in essence, York has committed the county to an annual increase in expenses that will add about a penny to the county’s tax rate – unless subsequently offset by trimming spending somewhere else.

As with Roedner’s grant of largesse, York made the increases not one-time grants or bonuses, but permanent, ongoing salary increases.

This is not good government – at either level.

Even more insulting in York’s case, she informed the commissioners that the raises had already been granted (effective December 1) when she told them on December 5 of her action.

What is also disturbing is the way that Elon’s town council last week, and Alamance County’s commissioners this week, didn’t seem to care much that their authority over their jurisdiction’s purse was being ignored.

While they were treated much like the “chopped liver” illustration, they didn’t seem to mind.

That’s almost as troubling as Roedner’s and York’s actions in the first place.

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