Wake County commissioners plan to give themselves a 132% raise this year, from $28,588 to more than $66,000. It’s incredibly unwise from a tax perspective. It’s also remarkably tone-deaf at a time when real wages across the state are falling in the face of the worst inflation in 40 years.
But there is a more concerning aspect to the proposed increase than its enormity. This aspect is the commissioners’ characterization of their “full-time” role to justify the increase. Commission Chairman Sig Hutchinson reportedly said: “It really is a full-time job. The more time you devote to this work, the more you get done.
There is so much wrong with that statement. Government should strive to deliver the services it is best placed to deliver, and it should strive to deliver them as efficiently as possible. There are very few things the government is best placed to provide, and that is just as true in Wake County as in any other jurisdiction.
This is why Wake County Commissioner is intended to be a part-time position. If, as Mr. Hutchinson suggests, commissioners devote full-time hours each week to Commission business, then they are doing it wrong.
The Commission’s role is to set the property tax rate, regulate land use and zoning outside municipalities, and pass the county’s annual budget. The county already has competent staff to carry out important day-to-day activities.
The expansion of the commissioners’ perceived role for themselves is a great example of Parkinson’s Law, but is terrible for Wake County residents. Almost everything the government tries to do costs money, and the more time commissioners spend trying to get more things done, regardless of merit or marginal effectiveness, the more it will end up costing. This always results in higher taxes.
The only exception is the introduction of government mandates, which the Commission has spent a lot of time on recently. Such mandates don’t necessarily require additional taxes, but they seriously undermine individual rights and can cause extraordinary economic damage (think lockdowns).
The introduction of a retirement benefit has exacerbated the problem. Retirement benefits are generally reserved for careers. The last thing we need is a bunch of commissioners who fancy themselves to be career mandarins. If current commissioners expect to have a career as commissioners, they risk not only overestimating their value, but also underestimating voters’ expectations.
Service as a commissioner is a public service, and a part-time service. Commissioners would do well to remember that.
Irina Comer lives in Cary