It was my pleasure to serve as a public servant for more than 20 years in another state. As an elected mayor for eight years, I knew that the first responsibility of any elected official is budgetary restraint.
We all are being warned our economy is headed for a recession and individuals are monitoring their finances conservatively. Companies are downsizing and consolidating. The cost of living is going up and income is remaining stagnant. Percentage in raises is 2 to 3 percent. A 10 percent raise for a county employee is unrealistic and unacceptable.
The recent reappointment of County Manager Jim Shuler, after retiring at age 56, is simply abuse of Hall County taxpayers’ money and neglect by our commissioners of their fiscal responsibilities. As a part-time administrator, Mr. Shuler receives a salary package of $330,000 a year. This is just plain wrong.
As a further insult to Hall County taxpayers, Mr. Shuler is allowed to teach and act as a consultant at his convenience, responding with a vehicle allocation at $1,500 a month. Where is fiscal accountability when our taxes have gone up every year in the county budget?
With the Hall County commissioners aware of Mr. Shuler’s pending retirement three months ago, more than adequate time was available to fill this very important position. There are other qualified and experienced people who would probably do this job at a much lower rate, possibly even in Hall County.
Contributing to a second retirement fund for the same individual would not be an issue. How can the commissioners not know that was the case when they made up his contract? It is their responsibility to understand the fine print. To suggest that as a county employee Mr. Shuler has first responsibility for the county budget is not to understand the simple fact that any elected official’s first duty (the commissioners) must be the taxpayers’ money.
To guard against this in the future, I suggest the following:
Any new contractual agreements with Hall County employees have a six-month notification clause before retirement.
Establish a two-member commissioner review committee to forward recommendations to the full commission.
Advertise nationally when positions of this magnitude occur within county government.
Establish a policy similar to Gwinnett County, where retired employees return to employment only at entry level.
In closing, may I further suggest that issues of this nature be avoided with a more open taxpayer-friendly Hall County Board of Commissioners meeting, including public input.
Terry W. Kuehn