The New Bern Sun Journal has retained legal counsel to obtain public records request from the city of New Bern regarding employee salaries.
A request for first and last name, job title, department, and salary was sent to the city and Craven County, in accordance with North Carolina law. As government employees are paid with taxpayer dollars, it is the public's right to know how their money is being spent.
After receiving the entire request in full from the county, the city and New Bern Police Department declined to provide the department's first and last names of sworn law enforcement officers.
The Sun Journal retained Stevens Martin Vaughn & Tadych, PLLC to litigate the request.
On average, a City of New Bern employee makes more than one with Craven County.
Although the average and median range of each salary are slim in comparison, New Bern's lowest salary employee makes over $1,000 more than Craven's.
The average City of New Bern salary comes out to $50,226, while the median salary is listed as $45,053. Compared to the median for Craven ($43,043), each is almost double the average person's income county-wide.
With inflation rising to the highest rate it's been in 31 years, local government employers look to be the only ones keeping up with the cost of living adjustment needed to match inflation.
Child-care providers, retail sales associates, construction workers, and other members of Craven County's labor force essential to the county's productivity are not so lucky. They make $29,000 a year or lower, previously reported by the Sun Journal.
MORE: Want to rent in Craven County? Here's how many hours a week you need to work
Employees in these positions would have to work over 40 hours a week on average just to rent a one-bedroom apartment at $30,000 a year.
Craven's median income, when public and private sectors are combined, sits at $27,714, according to U.S. Census data from 2019. Current data only lists the median household income.
Search Craven County data: See how much Craven County government employees make
Search New Bern data: See how much New Bern government employees make
Government employees make double versus private employees
The average annual salary for New Bern's 369 employees is $50,226 versus the annual average income for New Bern residents being $23,335.
The workforce for Craven County is about double the size of the city with 675. The county has 19 employees who are making more than $100,000 a year and two making more than $200,000. The annual average salary for the top 10 employees is $162,189. The county's annual average salary for all employees is $49,062.
Managers, directors, and public safety chiefs make up the top 10 salary positions with the City of New Bern. All 10 are listed as $100,000 salaries or more. The rest of the 369 paid employees fall below the six-figure line, as of Sept 21.
According to the database, 61.8% (223 of the city's employees) make between less than $25,000 and $50,000. The next highest salary group sits between $50,001 to $75,000, a total of 28.3% or 102 employees.
More: Violation of public record law: New Bern Police Department withholding records
Although the names are not listed with their associated salaries, there are two instances where an NBPD Sargent ($76,053.27 and $77,044.30) has a higher salary than the lowest-paid NBPD Luitenent ($75,221.83). The rank of Lt. is listed above the rank of Sgt. in the department.
Craven: double the employees, double the highest paid salary
Just like a city manager, Craven County manager Jack Viet III is the highest-paid county employee ($220,091) followed by Public Health Director Scott Harrelson ($202,339).
While city employees make more on average, there is a $34,624 difference between Top 10 county salaries ($162,189) and Top 10 city salaries ($127,565).
Craven mirrors New Bern in that over half of their employees (418 or 68.4%) are paid in the $25,001-$50,000 range.
As of Sept. 24, the county boasts a total of 675 employees, 611 of whom are salaried.
Reporter Trevor Dunnell can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please consider supporting local journalism by signing up for a digital subscription.
This article originally appeared on Sun Journal: Salaries: New Bern leading Craven County in employee pay