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Former Mayor Rothrock Questions Council Insurance Benefits

Current Town Council: Left to right: Tom Bridges, Sarah Friede, Mayor Bob Lewis, Mayor Protem Steve Shuttleworth and Jody Smith.

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - Former Carolina Beach Mayor Ray Rothrock is raising the question of paying for health and dental insurance benefits for Mayor and Town Council.
In a letter to Interim Town Manager Bruce Shell on April 1, Rothrock explained, "I want you to know about what  we, Town of Carolina Beach Citizens are paying for Council Members Health and Dental Insurance. I think it started back in about 2006-2007 and I never heard anything about it until last year.  Perhaps it just got put into the Budget about the same time Council Members were no longer Independent Contractors (1099's) and became Employee's (W-2's).  I do not agree with them being considered and treated as Employees because that cost the Town of Carolina Beach an additional $4,039 a year in matching FICA Taxes."
Rothrock explained, "My thoughts and plans were to ask Council Members to pay for their own Health and Dental Insurance if they wanted it and even offer them to purchase for their families if they so desired. I just do not think we taxpayers should be paying their Medical and Dental Insurance. The current price is $6,100.00 a year for each Council Member getting free insurance and $360.00 a year for free Dental Insurance. I think all of us believe those cost will increase. This free insurance to Council Members is currently costing the Town of Carolina Beach $26,200.00 a year.  This amount equates to one full-time employee a year and we could probably use another employee."
He explained, "I have learned that Kure Beach, Wrightsville Beach, Oak Island nor the City of Wilmington pays for Council Members Health and Dental Insurance.  Why are we?  Let them pay for it if they want it!  I do not believe any of them knew before being elected that the Town of Carolina Beach provided free Medical and Dental Insurance.  I was apparently very easy to not decline it since it equates to $538.00 a month they do not have to pay themselves for insurance."
He explained, "I doubt very much that if you should ask any of the Council Members their thoughts about them paying for the Medical and Insurance, they would say, "yes, let me pay for it"!
According to the 2012-2013 Town Budget, the Mayor is paid a salary of $700 per month. The Mayor Protem is paid $650 per month and Council members, $600 per month in addition to their health and dental insurance benefits.
The Carolina Beach Town Council is scheduled to have the first of several budget meetings on April 3, in preparation for the upcoming 2013-2014 fiscal year which begins July 1.
Mayor Bob Lewis explained Tuesday night, April 2, "I find it interesting for a guy that didn't come up with budget cuts last year when planning for the budget and wanted to raise taxes."
Lewis said the Council voted to adopt a tax rate lower than what was originally proposed and Rothrock did not agree with that decision.
Lewis said, "I don't know when the pay and benefits for Mayor and Council started. It doesn't matter to me, I could get insurance through my company. All employees working for the Town get health insurance benefits. We pay to cover our families."
Lewis said he and other Council members, "Work a significant amount of hours for the Town. As soon as we are sworn in we are informed of the pay and health insurance coverage. He had plenty of time to make a change last year. Guess he's pretty brave with that stuff when he's not in office anymore."
Mayor Protem Steve Shuttleworth said Tuesday night, "I take my entire monthly check and apply it to health insurance for my kids and wife. I'm not inclined to give it up, I put in a lot of time and work, from 25 to 35 hours a week" working for the Town.
Shuttleworth said, "Last year when doing the budget Ray was all for raising taxes and we lowered them. He never said let's close the budget gap by eliminating health insurance. He didn't make it a campaign issue when he was running for office."
Rothrock resigned his office as Mayor in November 2012. The Council agreed to accept the resignation of Town Manager Tim Owens during a late evening closed session held at the end of the Council's November 13, meeting.
When the Council emerged and the announcement was made, Mayor Ray Rothrock and Councilman Lonnie Lashley both resigned their seats on Council citing opposition to the move.
Mayor Ray Rothrock promptly said, "In view of all that, the final thing I have to say is, I resign. I quit. You folks can have it. I'll take my gavel. My name tag and go home."
Lashley said, "That's two of us. So you have some work ahead of you council. I wish you well. I've enjoyed working with you. All three of you."
Following the meeting Mayor Rothrock explained Carolina Beach is facing some serious issues including future beach nourishment funding, the logistics of an upcoming beach nourishment project later this fall, obtaining funding for dredging the Carolina Beach Inlet and how to deal with moving the Town's Operations Department to a new location off military land. He said his resignation was "effective immediately" and he's not going to change his mind. He said, "There's no need as Mayor to sit there with my hands tied and a Council working against everything. They have all the answers, they can figure it out."
Rothrock said, "I've felt for some time now there is no communication between us. No calls, no personal contacts. There has to be teamwork."