Brown turns down supervisor pay

Published 8:10 am Wednesday, January 27, 2010

COURTLAND—Newsoms District Supervisor Walt Brown voluntarily declined Monday to receive most of the $5,500 in annual salary he receives from the county for being on the Southampton County Board of Supervisors.

Brown told the board at its meeting Monday that he wants the money he is to be paid from February through December of this year given to the Southampton County Public Schools division. He said looming state budget cuts to local government, which he estimates could top $4 billion, could be devastating.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that Southampton County is going to be affected, especially in the educational aspect,” Brown said Tuesday. “I would hate to see class sizes go up to 35 or 40 students. It’s already in the 20s. If that does happen, teachers are going to need their teacher’s aides. So I tendered my salary and requested that my money go back into the school fund. And I made a recommendation that the other board members should do likewise.”

Brown added, “I didn’t run for the Board of Supervisors for the money. I ran to make a difference in my community and for my district.”

On the other supervisors, Brown said, “I believe that they are sincere and they understand the budgetary crunch we are under and the economic crisis that we are in.”

Brown and four other members of the Board of Supervisors — Moses Wyche, Ronald West, Anita Felts and Carl Faison — are paid $5,500 a year by the county to serve on the board and represent the Capron, Berlin-Ivor, Jerusalem and Boykins-Branchville districts, respectively.

Board Chairman and Drewryville District Supervisor Dallas Jones is paid $7,300 a year, while the board’s Vice Chairman, Walter Young Jr., is paid $6,700 annually.

“I applaud him for doing that,” Jones said Tuesday of Brown’s decision. “That was his idea. He’s doing what he wants to do. But the rest of us have not made up our minds. We are all individuals, and we don’t all think alike.”

Faison echoed that sentiment.

“I appreciate his ability to do that,” Faison said of Brown on Tuesday. “But that’s no indication for the condition of the other persons (on the board). I commend him for doing that, that he would want to do that, but I don’t think that should be a precedent for anyone else.”

Jones said the amount of pay the supervisors receive is minimal when factoring in the amount of time they spend working at the job. He added that when he was first elected to the board, supervisors were paid $100 a year.

“It isn’t like we’re making a whole lot of money, because we’re not,” Jones said. “If we were getting paid for what we did, you wouldn’t call it getting paid. We’re just getting a token for being there. And that’s why no one wants the job because they say there isn’t any money in it.”

Asked if he had ever thought about voluntarily taking a pay cut or not getting paid at all, Jones said he “hadn’t thought about it at all until (Brown) did it last night. It was mentioned at one time about us doing something. But I don’t want (Brown) to think we’re supposed to ask everybody that works for the county to give money back. Some of them are already barely making it, and they are already under paid.”

Jones added that Southampton County workers “are at the bottom of the (pay scale). If you check Franklin, Emporia and Isle of Wight, we are the bottom of the list as far as pay for the work that’s being done.”

West said Tuesday that he plans to follow the lead of Gov. Bob McDonnell, who with his staff voluntarily took a five percent pay cut when he took office earlier this month.

“I will certainly match what the governor and his staff are doing,” West said. “I’m not going to match Mr. Brown. I had already thought about doing the same thing as the governor.”

Wyche said Tuesday that he had not made a decision over what he would do with his salary. Young and Felts could not be reached for comment.

Ash Cutchin, a real estate appraiser who lives near Sedley, addressed the Board of Supervisors at its Dec. 21 meeting and urged them to pass a resolution that, among other things, called on the supervisors to voluntarily give 10 percent of their pay back to the county’s general fund.

“My main reason for making that suggestion was so that they would lead by example,” Cutchin said Tuesday. “Not only would they take a pay cut, but they would let our senators, congressmen and the president know that they are taking a pay cut. They would be leading by example by saying ‘we’ve got to stop spending so much money.’”

Asked about Brown’s decision, Cutchin said, “I was pleasantly surprised that he did that. I wish they would all do something similar. I think it’s an excellent idea, and most taxpayers would support it.”