As Mel Brooks says, “It’s good to be the king.”

These days, it’s also very good to be an employee of Guilford County government and it got a lot better to be one on Thursday, Sept. 7, when the Guilford County Board of Commissioners voted to give all employees a slew of new perks and benefits on top of the many, many others the board has granted in recent years.

Mike Halford, since he was named  Guilford County manager two and a half years ago, has pushed the commissioners to approve pay raises, new insurance benefits and lots of other perks for county employees.

For two and a half years the commissioners have gone along with the requests with little to no pushback. However, in May, when Halford came to the board with a request for yet another package of new attractive benefits, the commissioners did show a little resistance. They put the request on hold until this month, before ultimately granting his request at an afternoon work session on Thursday, Sept. 7.

The package offered, among other things, paid time off for caregiver leave and bereavement leave – and it made the accrual of vacation days more beneficial for employees.  It also tripled the amount of tuition reimbursement that employees get for continuing their education. (County employees already got time off for caregiver and bereavement leave due to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act – however, now those days off will be paid days rather than unpaid.)

The board granted the new perks on a 5-to-3 vote with Commissioners Kay Cashion, Pat Tillman and Alan Perdue voting against the motion.  Commissioner James Upchurch was not at the work session.

The three who voted no, say they do support county employees, but this year they have been arguing that, at some  point, there must be some  limit to the generosity of county government – if for no other reason so that you don’t end up with a workforce that’s getting paid very well for not showing up to work much of the year.

Cashion expressed her concerns at the work session before the vote.

“The county is so generous now, with all the leave time and options, and benefits and insurance benefits,” she said. “I’ve got some heartburn over this – I really do.”

She also said that the cost is born by those who pay property taxes, some of whom are working two jobs.

She added that she tried to help some people find a place to rent recently, but they couldn’t find anything affordable because rental prices are through the roof.

“And here we are talking about taking taxpayer money and paying our employees to go home and get paid, and not be on site working,” Cashion said.  “I think we need to be more accountable to our citizens who are working hard to support government.”