Dear Chairwoman Liz Gilland and members of the Horry County Council:
The Sun News reported the other day that the Horry County Council decided to give every county employee a 1percent pay cut rather than terminate any of them. As I recall, the article stated that this would result in an average pay cut of $400 per employee and would save the county around $900,000.
Let me tell you why this approach is wrong and offer some constructive criticism.
First, you are telling your best employees that they are not better than your laziest employees. You are also telling your best employees that they should not work so hard or so effectively because it is not doing them any good. Probably 10 percent of the county employees are as good as there are in government employment or in private business. This top 10 percent is going to look for better-paying jobs. They will also be recruited by other governments and private businesses. You are going to lose your best. They should receive a handsome pay raise.
Second, you mistakenly assume that the Horry County government cannot function without 2,250 employees. Many government employees are little more than "employment welfare" cases. The county can provide the same level of government services, if not better, with hundreds of fewer employees. Some departments can be eliminated and the work subcontracted to private businesses. The county saves the pension cost even if there are no other savings. In other departments, the poorest performing employees, say the bottom 10 percent or 20 percent, should be terminated.
Why is it that private owned businesses throughout the country have dramatically reduced the number of people they employ while, at the same time, government employment continues to grow? The answer is that government does not need to "earn" money or turn a profit. It can simply increase taxes to meet its ever increasing appetite for expansion, power and control.
Third, one of the largest costs of a government employee is the pension. When you eliminate a government job, you will save the county hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions of dollars, in future pension benefits.
Fourth, if $900,000 represents 1 percent of the annual county payroll, the annual Horry County payroll is around $90 million. Divided by 2,250 employees, the average county employee earns $40,000, before you add in the cost of health care and pensions. You do a great disservice to the citizens of the county when you burden them with the taxes necessary to cover this bloated county payroll, plus health insurance costs and pensions. In the boom years, the county added employees in large numbers. That was a mistake. Now you should correct that mistake by eliminating these jobs. Not by attrition, retirement or just leaving unfilled positions vacant awaiting better times, but by eliminating the government-provided service. Your public response can be "the county no longer provides that service."
Everyone I have known who has ever gone to work for Horry County feels like they have died and gone to financial security heaven. Government employment should not be this way. I hope you will change it. Your first duty is not to ensure the welfare of Horry County employees, but to ensure the well-being of the citizens of Horry County. Lower taxes would go a long way to achieving that. Horry County government employees are not owed their jobs by the citizens of the county.
As I offered in a previous letter, I would be willing to go through the county departments and payroll and recommend ways to reduce it. One councilman called me and asked how much I would charge the county to do this. My answer was that there would be no charge. Certain CPAs have told me that they would also participate in this analysis without charge.
The writer lives in Surfside Beach.