Thousands of NC workers split $8 million in raises

Promotions, added work mean $8M in higher pay for some NC workers despite lean times

, On Wednesday September 15, 2010, 8:07 am EDT

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- State employees haven't gotten a raise for two years, but more than 2,300 workers who were promoted, gained new skills, or took on added duties this spring pocketed an extra $8.23 million.

Legislators said Tuesday the information contained in the first report of its kind is sobering. Lawmakers ordered the pay raise report produced quarterly to keep track of who is getting salary increases and why.

Deep layoffs are in the offing next year unless lawmakers can find some other way to close a shortfall already projected at more than $3 billion, said Rep. Jim Crawford, a co-chairman of the House budget-writing committee.

"The whole idea is that we don't have any money, and raises will get us into a worse position for the next budget than we're in now," said Crawford, D-Granville. "We're going to have to let a lot of people go, it looks like to me, and we wanted to keep the raises to a minimum so that we could keep as many employees as possible."

The raises paid to 2,314 state workers between April and June don't necessarily mean state government is spending more since agencies still must live within their budgets.

But legislators want to know if bureaucrats running state agencies are following salary guidelines intended to keep spending under control, said Rep. Marilyn Avila, a Republican member of the budget-writing committee.

"Whenever the opportunity arises we say, 'Under the circumstances, we make an exception,' and exceptions get us in a lot of trouble," said Avila, R-Wake.

Thirty-six workers received raises that weren't justified by criteria set by the General Assembly and will have to pay back the extra money, said Margaret Jordan, spokeswoman for the Office of State Personnel. An appendix identifying those raises were scrubbed from the report on the recommendation of agency lawyers, Jordan said. The report also did not include public university payrolls.

Senate leader Marc Basnight, D-Dare, said at his family owned Outer Banks restaurant that he and his cooks and waiters are working harder for less money because of the recession. After legislators cut $800 million from the state budget in June, Basnight said he could see few reasons for state employees to get raises unless they worked in a high-value job and were being courted away to higher paying jobs.

"In these conditions, you give no raises but you do ask people to do more," Basnight said. "In government, we have to do more. We have to do it as a team. And then when the economy rebounds, when times are better, then you reward those who gave the extra effort to do more without the extra money."

The salary study, first reported by The News & Observer of Raleigh, showed $3.9 million in raises went to workers given job promotions. About $1 million went to those who kept the same position but may have added duties. Almost $1 million went toward compensating workers who added new skills that made them attractive to competing employers able to offer better pay.

The Department of Health and Human Services' head of computer security added duties developing the agency's privacy policies, spokesman Mark Van Sciver said. That earned Pyreddy Reddy a 12.5 percent raise boosting his salary to $115,775 a year, Van Sciver said.

"If there is a breech, he's the one who has to has to find it and seal it," Van Sciver said. "He's like the sheriff, the IT sheriff."

Michael Haley moved from a policy analyst at the Commerce Department to a policy director with managerial and supervisory functions, spokesman Tim Crowley said. Haley got a 25 percent raise in June to $66,788 a year, the report said.

Stephanie McGarrah added responsibilities that included working with Gov. Beverly Perdue's office and overseeing expanded databases promoting economic development, Crowley said. She got a 10 percent raise in June to $102,226, the report said.

As of April, the average salary of North Carolina's 93,217 state workers was $41,723. The work force has grown less than 1 percent since July 2008, when there were 92,627 workers at state agencies and universities.

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