NC employee vacancies mount as lawmakers negotiate budget

Bipartisan group of agency heads has called for bigger raises for state employees.
Bipartisan group of agency heads have called for bigger raises for state employees
Published: Jul. 17, 2023 at 5:47 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 18, 2023 at 11:03 AM EDT
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WBTV) – Republicans and Democrats who lead North Carolina state agencies have called for pay increases for state employees this year.

The calls come as Republican leaders in the N.C. General Assembly continue negotiating a final budget. Budgets put forth by both the House and Senate, as well as Gov. Roy Cooper, each proposed raises for state employees below what one leading group has asked for.

Cooper’s budget called for an 8% increase over the two-year budget cycle. The House’s budget would give state employees an across-the-board raise of 7.5% over two years. And employees would see a 5% percent increase over two years in the budget passed by the Senate.

But the State Employees Association of North Carolina has called for a 10% increase; 5% each year.

“I’ve heard from people that say ‘it’s hard to manage a family, it’s hard to do things that you need to do in order to have an honest and decent living,’” SEANC President Martha Fowler said.

Fowler pointed to the fact that mounting turnover in state jobs has meant state agencies have to spend more money hiring and training new employees, so the open positions are not, ultimately, saving tax dollars.

“Taxpayers are getting 75% services when we have to spend 100% of the money,” Fowler said.

Fowler and other SEANC leaders have pressed lawmakers to match their calls for a 10% raise.

Joining the push for more money is Labor Commissioner Josh Dobson.

Dobson told WBTV he has double-digit vacancy rates among two crucial groups of staff: elevator inspectors and compliance officers.

“We’re supposed to inspect elevators every year, and sometimes, because we have a vacancy there, we just can’t get to all 26,000 across the state,” Dobson said.

The same division charged with inspecting elevators is also charged with inspecting amusement rides, including the Fury 325 roller coaster that’s currently shut down at Carowinds.

Elsewhere in state government, recent WBTV investigations have found that a massive shortage of DMV examiners in the Charlotte area has led to long waits at driver license offices.

And a shortage of nursing home inspectors has meant a months-long wait for a facility to be inspected after complaints from a loved one.

Fowler, with the state employees’ association, said she fears the problem of high vacancies and higher turnover will only persist unless lawmakers offer bigger pay raises.

“People are going to leave state government,” she said. “We don’t want state government to be a training ground for other agencies.”