With the news that the Oakland County Board of Commissioners Human Resources Committee will consider a resolution that would give members of the county board $500 payments in January, we’re glad to hear that at least one commissioner is attempting to nix those small — but still meaningful — checks to county commissioners, and other members of the county’s governing body should join him in his efforts.
At issue is a resolution that would grant the same payments to be issued in the first quarter of the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, to all full-time, non-unionized county employees, who have borne a significant 4-percent pay reduction in the last two fiscal years to help the county balance its budget during shaky economic times.
Yet under a resolution the committee will consider next week, county commissioners would also receive a one-time $500 payment in January. Commissioner John Scott (R-Waterford, West Bloomfield), who chairs the Human Resources Committee, will be leading an effort to strike down those payments for county commissioners, who are considered part-time county employees who earn just over $32,000 per year.
Kudos to him for that effort. Long a reliable steward of taxpayer dollars, Scott’s effort, if successful, won’t save the county all that much — $10,500 out of a nearly $800 million budget, a fraction of a percent. But it’s the right thing to do, not only because that’s $10,500 that the county could use elsewhere, but also because it’s a matter of principle.
For most, if not all commissioners, their county jobs are not their primary source of income since many retain their employment in the private sector. On the other hand, for full-time employees, their county salaries are what puts bread on their tables, clothes on their children’s backs and fills the gas tanks. After taking the pay cuts the last two budget cycles, not to mention changes in their benefits and other attempts by the county to scale back costs, the $500 would be a welcomed and deserved carrot for them.
As elected officials, county commissioners need to set an example, and voting to give board members a small but not meaningless check isn’t setting a good one.
An admirable first step would be for the nine members of the committee to strip the resolution of the language authorizing the $500 payments to the soon-to-be 21 county board members and report it to the full county commission for a vote, where commissioners should approve it — with the payments still in tact for the full-time employees.