Viewpoint

Mecklenburg commissioners eye big pay raise

George Dunlap (right, with fellow Mecklenburg commissioner Matthew Ridenhour) wants to raise commissioners’ pay and double the length of their terms.
George Dunlap (right, with fellow Mecklenburg commissioner Matthew Ridenhour) wants to raise commissioners’ pay and double the length of their terms. ogaines@charlotteobserver.com

Mecklenburg County commissioners could be on the brink of dramatically raising their pay, but they won’t do it with tonight’s budget vote.

Commissioner George Dunlap, a Democrat, is leading an effort to explore giving the group a pay hike. Details are still being hammered out but the proposal could take commissioners’ pay from $25,177 to something closer to $50,000.

There were rumblings that commissioners could fold at least part of the bump into the budget they will approve tonight. That would have been exactly the wrong approach. Commissioners did not say a word about the pay hike at any of the many budget meetings open to the public. It was not part of their straw vote last week, an exercise that typically makes official approval of the budget a mere formality.

At a committee meeting this afternoon, Dunlap and other commissioners said they would not pursue the issue tonight but would take it to the full board soon for its consideration.

That’s good. Something as fundamental as doubling politicians’ pay when other employees continue to struggle deserves thoughtful, in-depth discussion by the full board, with a chance for the public to participate. Quietly slipping it into the budget would have been sneaky and irresponsible. Mecklenburg taxpayers deserve better.

In a related move, Dunlap is exploring doubling the length of commissioner terms from two years to four years. Under his plan, voters would cast ballots on that idea in November, and the longer terms would take effect in the following election. So the new commissioners could enjoy their higher pay for four years instead of two before again facing voters. -- Taylor Batten

Related stories from Charlotte Observer

  Comments