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Top pay is comparable to surrounding counties

By Karissa Minn
kminn@salisburypost.com
It doesnít take much effort to find out what Rowan County employees make.
Just a few clicks on the county website will reveal their names, positions, salaries or wages, hire dates and more.
Sunshine Week, a celebration of government transparency, begins today. Rowan County let a little more light in this year by making employee pay information available online. Similar data could not be found last week on any surrounding countiesí websites.
The county published two databases ó for employees with and without benefits ó in January at the request of a majority of commissioners, led by Jim Sides.
ěI just think itís important to be open,î Sides said this past week. ěWeíve said for years weíre going to let the sun shine in. Well, the sunís shining today, and I like it.î
To access the data, visit www. co.rowan.nc.us, choose ěHuman Resourcesî under the ěDepartmentsî menu and click ěEmployee Infoî under ěOther Useful Links.î
Before the databases were put online, Rowan Countyís website earned a C for transparency from the John Locke Foundation. Davidson and Davie counties received the same grade, while Iredell and Cabarrus countiesí websites each earned a B.
The website gives Rowan credit for making available online its annual financial information, budget, health expenses, revenue report, transportation improvement plan and salaries of employees earning $50,000 or more.
But it makes deductions for several unavailable resources, including the checkbook, contracts, future liability for retirees, capital improvement plan, number of employees, audit reports, comprehensive annual financial report and salaries of employees by job code.
Sides said the countyís revenue and expenditure reports are now available as spreadsheets in addition to PDF documents, and he hopes to help put more information online.
County Manager Gary Page said he hasnít heard much feedback from the public or employees about the databases. Sides said he has heard people praise the countyís transparency, but Commissioner Raymond Coltrain says people have told him the online databases are unnecessary.
Coltrain said he doesnít see a benefit to putting potentially sensitive information on the county website when it is already public.
ěThat information has always been available to people who ask for it,î Coltrain said. ěThis opens it up to individual employees for the possibility of unnecessary scrutiny or hard feelings from other people or some of their co-workers.î

A Post reporter e-mailed a request to Carolyn Athey, clerk to the board, and Gary Page, county manager, for a breakdown of total compensation for several of the top paid employees as well as the Board of Commissioners. Human Resources Director Darlene Boling and Finance Director Leslie Heidrick each sent e-mail responses to two separate requests in less than 24 hours.
Cabarrus, Davidson, Davie, Iredell and Stanly counties took a day or two to respond to the same requests, and staff members sent the information without question.
Based solely on the commissionersí salary of $12,208 ($14,650 for the chair), Rowan County has the highest-paid board compared to surrounding counties. Cabarrus comes closest with $11,948, and Stanly offers commissioners the lowest pay with $9,432.
But when travel allowances are factored in, at $15,808 ($18,250 for the chair), Rowanís total compensation is the second highest after Cabarrus at $18,548, and itís nearly equal to that of Iredell and Stanly counties.
Rowan reimburses each board member $3,600 for travel, compared to more than $6,000 in Cabarrus, Iredell and Stanly counties. Davie and Davidson County Commissioners are given a travel allowance of up to $2,400 each, and Davidson board members also receive $780 per year for a phone allowance.

The salaries of Rowan Countyís top paid employees donít differ drastically from those in surrounding counties. Tax Administrator Jerry Rowland and Information Systems Director David Boling are paid more than their counterparts – only Cabarrus Countyís tax administrator has a higher salary ó but both have been working for the county for more than 20 years.
Sheriff Kevin Auten, who was elected in November 2010, is paid $79,106, compared to salaries ranging from $66,417 in Stanly County to $101,688 in Iredell County. Auten receives $1,000 annually for a clothing allowance.
The highest-paid full-time position in the county is Page, the county manager, who is paid $133,126 per year plus a $4,200 travel allowance. His salary is the third highest among managers of surrounding counties, whose base pay ranges from $96,525 in Stanly County to $198,573 in Cabarrus County.
The lowest-paid full-time position in the county is a custodial worker paid $10.49 per hour, or $21,825 per year ó $111,300 less than the top salary.
Average county salaries are $37,862 for full-time employees and $36,983 for all employees receiving benefits.
According to a February report from the N.C. Department of Commerce, the 2009 average annual pay in Rowan County is $37,804 (calculated from the average weekly wage for 52 weeks). For all government employees it is $53,404, and for private sector employees it is $33,332.
The average hourly wage of part-time county employees not receiving county benefits is $10.69. Sixty-four part-time employees are paid $7.25 per hour, which is the minimum wage in North Carolina.

Anyone can look up Rowan Countyís benefits package on its website, but Sides and Page said benefits soon will be listed ó and, where possible, given a price tag ó in the online database of employees who receive them.
ěCounty employees think Iím against them, but Iím not their enemy,î Sides said. ěItís simply that I think we need to be above board and transparent. When you tell somebody that a county employee makes $30,000 a year, thatís a lie, because they probably make $45,000 a year if you add in benefits.î
Rowan County pays the full cost of health insurance for its employees. Coverage for an employee plus children, spouse or family costs the employee $130, $120 or $250 per month, respectively.
After a six-month probationary period, the county contributes 3 percent of an employeeís annual salary – five percent for law enforcement officers ó into a 401(k) plan.
County employees receive 11 or 12 paid holidays a year and an average of 8 hours of sick leave per month. They are given between 10 and 21 days of vacation per year depending on years of service (less than 2 years through 15 or more).
Employees contribute 6 percent of their earnings to local government retirement benefits, and the county adds almost an equal amount. After five years, an employee who leaves county service may leave their contributions in the system and draw a retirement income beginning at age 60.
An employee can retire with full benefits at age 65 and five years of creditable service, at age 60 and 25 years of service or at any age with 30 years in the retirement system. An employee can retire with reduced benefits at age 50 with 20 years of creditable service or at age 60 with five years of service.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.

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