Bad timing

Published 9:06 am Wednesday, September 7, 2011

In May, we took the Southampton County Board of Supervisors to task for giving county employees 2 percent pay raises.

We had no beef with the fact that county employees work hard and deserve to be paid a fair wage. Our objection was that the raises were given at a time when few taxpayers are seeing any increase in pay and the funding for those raises came from a 1.3 percent increase in the county real estate taxes.

The amount of both the pay raises and the tax increases were relatively small. On principle, however, we don’t feel county employees are more deserving of pay increases than their non-raise-receiving private-sector neighbors.

In a more robust economy, where wages are generally rising, county employees should certainly reap the rewards of a rising tide that lifts all boats. When economic conditions are less than desirable, we feel that everyone should tighten their belts.

Now, the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors has given preliminary approval for 5 percent pay increases for its employees.

Isle of Wight’s decision seems to be as poorly timed as that of Southampton’s. Both counties face similar economic challenges, both are still struggling to deal with the fallout from International Paper’s October 2009 decision to cease operations at the Franklin mill and both are still searching for ways to create a new economic identity.

What is strikingly different about the decisions is that the Isle of Wight board’s decision to give a raise to its employees comes on the heels of approving a monumental 25 percent increase in real estate taxes.

Once again, we stand on principle and state that we find the timing of the decision to be equally suspect. However, it’s hard to imagine at any point in time at which we would not find the action taken by the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors to be downright outrageous.