Deliberations Include Town Manager’s Salary in the Budget - TribPapers

Deliberations Include Town Manager’s Salary in the Budget

A list of additional requests for funding on the 2024-2025 budget for the Town of Weaverville. Photo by Clint Parker

Weaverville – The Weaverville Town Council added about $400,000 to the 2024-2025 budget at a budget meeting on Tuesday evening (June 11). The items council agreed to add to the 2024-2025 budget were a grapple truck with a knuckle-boom loader to advance worker safety ($228K), an additional quarter of a year for a public works assistant ($32,500), and a part-time recreation assistant for after-hours ($19,300).

Left out of the additional requests were larger ticket items such as a DC fast charge for the town’s EV fleet ($150,000), Main Street Nature Park Upgrades ($182,000), Eller Cove Watershed trail system ($1.072 million), and an Active Weaverville Committee request of over half a million, to name a few. Readers will note that every $121,780 of spending equates to one cent in a property tax increase, but the town had about $200,000 to work with and used part of the fund budget to cover the rest.

Adding to the deliberation, the council chose not to act on a new contract for the town manager, Selena Coffey, even though they were just days away from a vote on the budget.

“I have a question… but one of the things we need to include in the budget by the end of June is the town manager’s salary,” said Councilwoman Michele Wood. Going on to say the town had the information they needed, so “doesn’t that need to be part of this budget?”

Coffey said it would be good to include the salary and contract in with the budget. Wood said, “I don’t see it.” Coffey replied that the town had not approved the contract.

Councilwoman Catherine Cordell spoke up and said, “It will be retroactive whenever we finally get to it…whenever that is. We’ll backdate it, I’m sure. It will be put into the budget then. Right? Isn’t that normally how we do it? When we finally got around to giving you a raise last time, it was around September. I think it’s not the first of July.”

“No, it wasn’t, but I think there have been a lot of questions as to whether I have an agreement or not. If there is not a consensus on updating my agreement, then there are different ways of looking at it,” responded Coffey.

Wood said it’s not the way that contracts are usually handled. “Last year, we didn’t get around to it until September, but I don’t know if that’s the norm.”

After more discussion, it was agreed that a closed session would be held on Monday night (June 17) at the beginning of the regular monthly meeting to discuss Coffey’s contract.

Town manager issues

The Tribune reported a few weeks ago that Councilman Dee Lawrence said in a May 11 email, “There also appears to be a concerted effort to remove the current town manager. The majority of town council is aware of this and strongly disapproves and condemns these efforts…”

The Tribune asked Cordell if she was one of those Lawrence was talking about in his email. In her reply, Cordell said, “No change was ever suggested to my knowledge. This is just another fabricated story. We, as council, are required to perform an annual performance review of the town manager each year. In 2023, mayor asked me to assist in the review. Some information was revealed that surprised some of us. I recommended an updated job description and a new contract. This took a path of its own and now we have our current situation.”

She also shared an email she sent to the board and town staff that read: “I am not in favor of rushing this process [town manager contract]. When Michele requested a closed meeting, I thought it would be on the same day as the budget meeting.

“The town manager has a valid contract in place and a valid job description. Everyone seems happy with the status quo. Would it not be a better use of time to find, interview, and hire a new town attorney before we move forward with contract commitments?

“One other point I would like to make to Councilman Dee Lawrence, your statement that I read in the paper, because you did not respect me enough to copy ‘there appears to be a concerted effort to remove the current Town Manager’ was absolutely wrong and off base. I have never suggested this and I have not been present if anyone else did.”

She said she suggested that “our current town manager” have regular office hours and that she “visit our largest taxpaying business and plan for the future by hiring a planner who can be forward thinking and help develop longterm views.