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Back You are here: Home Opinion Opinion Section Editorials Editorial: Health Benefits For Elected Leaders

Editorial: Health Benefits For Elected Leaders

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

This issue first came up earlier this year when local resident D.A. Lewis began questioning why Carolina Beach elected leaders receive health and dental benefits yet part-time Town employees out in the field do not. He spoke on this topic numerous times at Council meetings.
With three new elected leaders taking the oath of office at the December 10th, meeting, it will be interesting to see if the issue comes up again. After all, newly elected Mayor Dan Wilcox and Council members Gary Doetsch and Leann Pierce will have a decision to make; accept those benefits or not.
Elected leaders campaign to serve the public good and in Carolina Beach all of our leaders either have jobs or are retired.
Traditionally some leaders have received thousands of dollars in pay and health and dental insurance. While the amount is not as large as other budgetary expenditures, every penny counts.
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 health insurance and dental coverage.
Elected leaders in Carolina Beach already have a source of income and health insurance for themselves and their families prior to seeking office.
Getting such benefits on the backs of the taxpayers hasn't been a campaign topic in previous years, but in the face of a not-so-great economy, our leaders must rid themselves of all such expenses to taxpayers.
They should experience the same economic climate we are all dealing with and not enjoy such from the monies we are forced to pay into the Town's coffers.
All of them have jobs just like other citizens. Citizens have benefits funded by their employers or they pay for it out of their own pockets.
If public service were a full time job for these elected leaders such as those in Charlotte or Raleigh, then it would be at least easier to stomach, but in small Town Carolina Beach, it's not a full time job and leaders should already have such benefits from the private sector or from retirement benefits.
These jobs are important, but when the taxpayers are making sacrifices, the elected leaders should continue to depend on the income they earned prior to running for office and not benefits paid for by the taxpayers.
It's understandable that some elected leaders spend more time working on Town issues than others, but at the end of the day they are also supported by a large administrative staff that should be able to get the work done with direction from Council.
Once again, getting elected to any local office in our area is purely a volunteer job. It's not New York. It's not Las Vegas. It's not Miami.
I'd like to believe our elected leaders run for office because of their commitment to volunteer public service.
This isn't about travel expenses. If elected leaders have to travel to Raleigh or Washington to lobby for funding here at home, paying for their gas, hotel and food expenses is a good investment.
Now is a good time to test all of our elected leaders on this issue. Not because it's a lot of money - it's not - but more importantly, the principal of the matter. The Mayor Protem is paid $650 per month and Council members, $600 per month in addition to health insurance and dental coverage.
As for our newly elected leaders, depending on their opinions on the topic, the December meeting will most likely be ceremonial with limited business on the agenda other than taking the oath of office.
The issue isn't likely to show up on the agenda until the January regular meeting.
When it does come up there are two possible scenarios. The Council majority can vote to eliminate health and dental insurance benefits for the entire Council or they can agree as a majority to allow individual members to opt out of receiving those benefits.