Local Politics

Some question bonus plan for Durham County workers

Posted November 2, 2010 6:46 p.m. EDT
Updated November 2, 2010 7:03 p.m. EDT

— The Durham County Board of Commissioners voted Monday to spend almost $2 million on bonuses to county workers, a move that some people say isn't the best use of money during a slow economy.

The $1,000 bonuses will be included in the Dec. 10 paycheck, and employees would net $554 after federal and state taxes and state retirement system contributions are deducted, county officials said.

"It was very important that we really be able to say thank you to them in a tangible way," Board of Commissioners Chairman Michael Page said.

Tight budgets forced the county to stop giving performance-based raises to employees in June 2008.

Commissioners Brenda Howerton and Joe Bowser joined Page in voting for the bonuses. Commissioners Ellen Reckhow and Becky Heron voted against the move.

"I was not a happy camper," Heron said.

About 1,780 county employees are eligible for the bonus, and part-time workers would get a smaller check based on their weekly hours. To qualify, they must not have any pending disciplinary infractions and they must have started work for the county before the end of June.

Heron said she believes the county workers deserve the extra money, but she said it could be put to a better use.

"If our reserves are really, really good, let's reduce the tax rate because, you know, we raised taxes on our citizens," she said.

Page said the county must continue to be fiscally responsible. "But you have to reward your employees for good service," he added.

Heron also said it's unfair to award bonuses to animal control employees but not workers at the county animal shelter, who are employees of the Animal Protection Society.

"They didn't get a raise last year either," she said. "They deserve to be recognized."

Durham County taxpayers had mixed reactions to the bonus plan.

"If the money is there, they should get it," Donald Burdick said.

"If it's something that they've really earned, I'm all for it, but if not, put that money elsewhere," Shiva Craigwell said.