Amid tough times, DSS director denied raiseWritten by Bibeka Shrestha
After much deliberation, Swain County commissioners voted 3-2 against an $8,800 pay raise for the Department of Social Services director in the face of a severe budget shortfall.
Director Tammy Cagle asked for the raise to be compensated for additional work she must now undertake to create a child support enforcement division for the county. The state shut down regional offices that formerly handled child support enforcement due to its own budget woes.
“It’s going to be a hardship,” said Cagle. “I have to learn the whole program myself because we have never had child support in our office.”
A plan for the program must be in place in 28 counties across the state, including in Swain, Macon, and Cherokee counties, by Jan. 1.
Cagle and County Manager Kevin King agreed that it would be cheaper to do the work in-house rather than contract it out.
The county would eventually have to hire two employees to handle the new division. Each one would have 66 percent of their salaries funded by the federal government, and incentive programs would make it possible to break even on the program, King said.
King also pointed out that it would cost Cherokee County at least $300,000 to hire three workers, and it would cost Swain a minimum of $100,000.
While Cagle argued she cut back about $51,000 from her own department, some commissioners remained unconvinced about approving a pay raise.
Commisssioner David Monteith, who voted against the motion, said tough times sometimes call for sacrifice by employees.
“I mean no disrespect,” said Monteith. “But sometimes you just gotta work harder to get the job done.”
Commisssioner Genevieve Lindsay voted for the pay raise, stating that this was not part of Cagle’s job. “This would be a new job,” sad Lindsay.
Chairman Glenn Jones made a motion to raise Cagle’s salary by $4,400 but no one seconded the motion.
“It’s hard times. This is something extra she’s got to do,” said Jones. “We’ve got to get some kind of compensation for her job.”
Commissioner Steve Moon supported the pay raise, stating Cagle went out of her way to save money for the county, “not like some other departments in the county.”
Whether they were for or against the pay hike, commissioners uniformly commended Cagle on doing a commendable job.
“This lady deserves this, but I cannot justify it when we’ve laid off people,” said Monteith.