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By Jessie Burchette
Salisbury Post
County commissioners won’t be getting a pay raise this year ó and they won’t get new chairs.
The Rowan County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Monday evening to decline for themselves a 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase approved for county employees.
Commissioners currently receive $12,208 a year, with the chairman paid $14,650. They also get $300 a month for travel. Board members last approved a pay increase in 2005.
Commissioners also receive the same free health insurance available to full-time county employees. During fiscal year 2008, that’s budgeted at $626 a month, or $7,200 annually.
Three commissioners currently participate in the insurance program.
Also Monday, commissioners officially deleted $8,500 budgeted for nine chairs for the commissioners’ meeting room.
And Chairman Arnold Chamberlain apparently won’t be getting a $1,270 leather executive chair for his office.
Commissioner Jim Sides weighed in as a taxpayer Monday evening. Speaking during the public comment portion of the meeting, Sides said a $1,300 chair concerns him.
Sides noted Chamberlain’s comment in an e-mail last week that buying furniture was not a board decision.
During his research on furniture for the chairman’s office, Sides discovered that some budget amendments don’t come before the Board of Commissioners.
Sides suggested the procedure needs to be changed so that the board at least sees copies of those budget amendments at some point.
Under the current policy, County Manager Bill Cowan, who is the budget officer, has the authority to transfer unlimited amounts within departments without board approval.
All of the funding transfers are shown in the monthly finance report given to commissioners. That report often runs 100 pages or more.
In March, Cowan and Finance Director Leslie Heidrick approved a budget transfer of $6,000 to buy new furniture for the board.
A purchase order approved May 30 provided $5,512 to pay Indoff Office Solutions for the executive chair; a leather side chair costing $588, a 72-inch by 36-inch desk priced at $1,300; a matching credenza costing $1,100; a 48-inch bridge for $310; and an overhead storage hutch priced at $944.
The order was apparently canceled in late May after glitches in delivery. Chamberlain wrote in an e-mail last week that when he decides whether he needs new furniture he’ll direct the staff to order it.
Commissioners left $3,500 in the budget for new furniture for the county manager’s office. Cowan said Tuesday he’s not sure if he will spend it.
Cowan uses the desk originally used by Seth Murdoch, the county’s first manager.
Former County Manager Tim Russell often cited the fact he still used Murdoch’s furniture as a testament to the county’s frugality.
“The desk is fine,” Cowan said. He said, however, that he needs a credenza. Modern files don’t fit easily in the existing drawers. Closing the drawers rips the top tabs off the folders.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254 or jburchette@salisburypost.com.

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