Haw River’s town council voted this week to give itself a 5 percent pay raise, as part of a $4.7 million budget that the council has adopted for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Asked whether he thought it was appropriate to include a pay raise for his board in the budget he proposed, Haw River town manager Sean Tencer acknowledged in an interview with The Alamance News that it was “generous” to include the 5 percent pay raise for council members, adding that they could’ve taken it out but didn’t.
Following a public hearing on the proposed budget that drew no speakers Monday night, Haw River mayor Kelly Allen said she will no longer continue to accept a check for her service on the council, pointing to her opposition to the pay raise for council members.
The increase in pay for Haw River town council members is commensurate with a 5 percent across-the-board pay raise that town employees will receive for the 2022-23 fiscal year, as proposed by Tencer in the budget.
Tencer recommended increasing the annual pay for town council members by a yearly total of $500, from the existing level of $10,081 for all five council members to $10,585 per year for all five council members, starting July 1.
“If the budget is passed, I would automatically get it whether I want it or not, so as of July 1st, I will no longer accept a check monthly from the town for being the mayor or being on the town council because we answer to the taxpayers and to the voters,” Allen said Monday night, reiterating concerns that she had previously raised during the council’s initial discussion about the proposed budget last month. “Even though it’s a miniscule amount – I mean miniscule – and we make very little, it’s just the principle of the thing to me.”
Allen applauded other aspects of the budget this week, including efforts to retain town employees by providing 5 percent raises across-the-board for town employees.
“I think people should know that other municipalities around here can and do pay more than Haw River can,” the mayor elaborated. “We have 2,450 residents, a lot of whom are retirees. It costs us a lot of money every time we lose an employee and have to hire and get another employee in here so it’s really important that they get this cost-of-living [increase]. I know that the other municipalities are giving larger raises, but we can’t afford it.”
Mayor pro-tem Lee Lovette was unable attend the meeting Monday night, but asked to have a statement read aloud during the discussion, explaining that he’d had surgery that morning and was recovering in the hospital.
The mayor pro tem also had raised concerns about the proposed pay raise for the council last month. In the statement that was read aloud for the council Monday night, Lovette said he “fully supports” the budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
“The budget continues our attempt to restore fiscal stability to the town by increasing fund balance,” while also allowing the town to award a 5 percent cost-of-living increase to town employees, Lovette elaborated in his statement, adding that had he been able to attend, he “would definitely vote in favor of the budget.”
Allen recalled in a subsequent interview with The Alamance News that when she originally ran for a seat on the city council – in 2009, prior to her election to the mayor’s post in 2019 – she did not know that council members received a monthly stipend for their service.
“I’m against a 5 percent increase for myself,” Allen said last month during the council’s initial discussion about the town’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
Positions of Council Members:
“I’m against a 5 percent increase for myself.”
– Haw River mayor Kelly Allen during may budget discussion
“I also don’t want the 5 percent increase. You can give me mine, and I’ll give it right back to you, if that’ll make it easier; but I don’t want a 5 percent raise.”
– Mayor pro tem Lee Lovette at May town council meeting
“I don’t see anything wrong with it.”
– Councilman Steve Lineberry at May town council meeting
no comments (either month) from: town councilman Shawn Riggan or town council member Patty wilson
“I also don’t want the 5 percent increase,” Lovette said during the discussion in May. “You can give me mine, and I’ll give it right back to you, if that’ll make it easier; but I don’t want a 5 percent raise.”
“I don’t see anything wrong with it,” Haw River town councilman Steve Lineberry said at the May meeting, noting that the increase works out to about $7 more per month.
“It’s not a lot of money,” Allen acknowledged during the earlier discussion, “and it’s $10 for me.” Allen suggested that Tencer redo the budget and specify the raises would be for “council, except for mayor.”
“I don’t want it,” Allen insisted last month.
“If we do that, why don’t we just vote and do away with taking any money?” Lineberry said last month. “I’ll be in favor of that tonight. We could do away with it totally.”
Lovette countered, “I don’t want to set off an argument, but I just don’t feel right taking an increase in pay.
“Now if it was $500 a month, I’d say, yeah, go ahead, but I don’t feel like taking 5 percent,” the mayor pro tem said during the earlier discussion. “It’s got nothing to do with anybody else on the council so I’m not saying do away with getting paid because I think we deserve what we get. I don’t know what people think we do, but we do a lot.”
“My question,” Lineberry asked, “is when was the last time they bumped it? Lee, you and Kelly have been here the longest.”
“A long time ago,” Lovette recalled, “and it set off a stink. The volunteer fire department went crazy that we got a 5 percent raise, which was $6 for me a month. I [said] I’d be glad to donate it to the fire department.”
Lineberry said last month that he didn’t “see nobody knock the doors down when we got a 15 percent property tax increase. That’s just my take on it.”
“We had no choice because of previous management, and that was the only thing the town could do in order for us to stay solvent,” Allen recalled last month, referring to the 15 percent property tax increase that had been included in a previous budget.
“Let the ones who want the raise take it, and the rest of us who don’t, we won’t,” Lovette said, emphasizing that he didn’t want the public to think that he’s taking a raise.
Tencer suggested that, as an option, the council could reduce its budget for travel from $1,000, as he had recommended, to $500 and not use those funds. “That’s a suggestion, or departmental supplies – you have other line items that you could just take out of there,” Tencer said, noting that he’d checked with other municipalities and found that the stipend for Haw River town council members is the lowest.
“It’s just the perception,” Allen said last month. “People see that you got a 5 percent increase after a very large tax increase, and they don’t realize [the] little amount that comes out to be. I don’t know how you can figure, you can say everybody but the mayor, but I don’t want that money added to my check.”
Voting this week to adopt the manager’s recommended budget for 2022-23 were: Lineberry; the town’s newest councilman, Shawn Riggan, elected to his first term in November 2021; and councilwoman Patty Wilson; and Allen.
Highlights of the budget that Haw River’s town council has adopted for 2022-23 include:
• The town’s property tax rate will remain at its existing level of 63 cents per $100 of valuation;
• Water rates will increase by 3 percent, from $14.68 per 2,000 gallons to $15.12 per 2,000 gallons;
• Sewer rates will increase by 5 percent, from $25.82 per 2,000 gallons to $27.11 per 2,000 gallons;
• Garbage collection fees will increase by $1.08 per container to offset a 9.1 percent increase in inflation and costs for diesel.
Haw River’s budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year takes effect July 1.
Read the newspaper’s editorial page opinion on the pay raise portion of the Haw River budget, “Haw River shows self-serving philosophy from manager to council members”: https://alamancenews.com/haw-river-shows-self-serving-philosophy-from-manager-to-council-members/