Debate brewing over possible pay raises for Oakland County commissioners amid COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 11:37 AM, Dec 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-04 11:37:52-05

(WXYZ) — A battle is brewing over possible pay raises for the part-time Oakland County Board of Commissioners.

People we talked to are expressing a lot of concern over raises possibly being given to part time elected leaders in Oakland County. But, the head of the county board says nothing has been decided yet.

“It’s a conversation that may result in an elected official salary increase not just for the board, but for all county elected officials," Commission Chair David Woodward said.

Woodard said he and his colleagues are in the early stages of looking at pay increases that could potentially be voted on as early as Monday.

“By law we are required to have a vote take place by the end of the year," Woodward said.

If approved,t he base salary for a commissioner that makes roughly $37,000 plus benefits would go up by 3%, but board members in higher roles with more responsibility could see bigger increases.

Currently, Woodward gets an extra 20% stipend for taking on more duties, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, some taxpayers say the timing is wrong.

“I think that money could be better allocated to someone who needs it. Funding programs, people struggling. It’s ridiculous. I don’t want to put my money towards that at all," one woman said.

“No. Not now. Not a good thing. A lot of people are being laid off. Not working. It’s the holidays season also," another man told us.

Woodward says the board continues to take on a great role in running the county government, which also means more time spent working.

A recent Democrat majority caucus vote will now be reviewed by Republicans and finally would go to the entire 21-member group for approval.

Board member Tom Middleton, who opposes the plan, said he's voting no on paying for more part-time work.

“We do have a resolution coming to finance committee with a 40% increase for Woodward. I don’t see the reasoning for this at all," Middleton said.

We also asked Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter for his thoughts.

“We treat elected officials like employees. When we’ve asked them to make a sacrifice the elected officials have made the same sacrifice. When there’s been an increase for employees, the elected leaders have done the same thing," he said.

Reflecting back on the 18 years of his own service, Middleton said he's skeptical of the process, pointing out the same board led by Woodward came under scrutiny when they initially planned to appoint him the next county exec to replace L. Brooks Patterson with little to no input from the public.

“He just snookered all of us. We were just burying Brooks Patterson when he was pulling all this crap," Middleton said.

The regular board meets Monday at 5 pm.