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News What are your tax dollars paying for?

From local boards, to state legislators, to members of Congress, elected officials are all ultimately put in positions of power because voters chose to put them there. While state and congressional salaries are fixed amounts across the board, local governments establish their own pay requirements for elected officials. Compared to neighboring Jackson and Rabun counties, Macon County falls right in the middle of the pay grade for elected offices.

County Boards of Commissioners

Jackson County is comprised of a population of around 40,000 people with an area of around 500 square miles. The board of commissioners consists of five members elected for staggered, four-year terms. Each commissioner is elected county-wide, but must reside within the boundaries of one of the four districts. One commissioner is elected for each district, with the exception of the chairman. Jackson County taxpayers pay a total of $ 62,266.56 a year for the entire board. The elected chairman receives $16,189.76 annually, while the other four members each receive $11,519.20. In the event that board members have to travel out of town on behalf of the county, they are reimbursed for travel expenses.

Macon County has a population of 34,074, which is spread over an area of 519 square miles. Macon County commissioners are elected to four year staggered terms with a total of five board members representing three districts. The Franklin district has three representatives on the board, while Highlands and Nantahala each have one. Macon County taxpayers pay $49,957.15 a year in board member compensation. The board chairman, which is elected by fellow board members, receives $11,269.35 annually while the other four members are paid $9,671.95 a year for their services. An additional $24,000 is set aside to provide each board member up to $4,800 annually for travel expenses when they have to travel outside of the county to represent Macon. In the event that commissioners do not travel and use the funds allocated for travel expenses, the money remains in the budget. Rabun County, Ga., has a population of 16,274, which is spread over 377 square miles.

Rabun County's government is led by a fivemember board who are elected at large from designated districts to serve staggered four-year terms. Rabun County taxpayers are responsible for paying $30,000 a year for the board's service. The board chair receives $8,400 annually, while the other members each receive $5,400. In the event that commissioners travel out of the county on behalf of the board, they are reimbursed for expenses.

Municipality governments

In addition to the board of commissioners, Jackson’s county seat, Sylva, which is comprised of 2,588 residents over 3.2 square miles, has a town board with a mayor and five town commissioners. Sylva taxpayers pay $22,800 a year for the town board. Sylva's mayor receives $4,800 annually, while the other five members are each compensated $3,600 a year. Board members are reimbursed for any expenses incurred while traveling on behalf of the town.

Over an area of 3.9 miles, Macon’s county seat of Franklin has a population of 3,869. In addition to the mayor, Franklin's government consists of six town aldermen that make up the town board. Franklin taxpayers pay out $30,000 a year for the town government. The mayor receives $7,200 annually, the vice-mayor receives $4,800, and the other five members of the board each receive $3,600. The town aldermen are also compensated for fees incurred while traveling on behalf of Franklin.

While Franklin is Macon's county seat, Highlands has an elected board and a separate active government. Highlands' average population sits at about 925, but because of the large secondhomeowner population, in the summer months, the population ranges from 18,000 to 20,000 residents throughout the town's 6.2 square mile area. Highlands' government is comprised of a mayor and five town commissioners. Taxpayers pay out $23,000 a year to compensate the Highlands' board for their service. The mayor receives $5,000 annually, while the five commissioners are paid $3,600 each. Town commissioners are compensated for expenses incurred while traveling on behalf of the board.

Rabun’s county seat is Clayton, which consists of a population of 2,043 over an area of 3.1 square miles. Clayton's government is comprised of a mayor and five town commissioners. Clayton's taxpayers pay $16,500 a year to compensate the board for their services. The mayor receives $7,500 a year, with each commissioners receiving $1,800. They are reimbursed for travel expenses acquired while serving on the board.

Boards of Education

Jackson County's school district serves about 3,707 students throughout nine schools. The board of education has five elected officials appointed to make decisions for the district. Annually, the board of education members’ salaries combined total on average is $16,200. The board chairman receives $4,200 with the other four members making $3,000 a year. In addition to being reimbursed for any travel expenses, Jackson County pays board members $100 for each special called meeting that would occur in addition to its monthly scheduled meeting.

Macon County's school district has 11 schools serving 4,400 students. The five-member board of education receives a total salary of $12,600. The board chair receives $3,000 a year, with the other four members receiving $2,400 each. In addition to being compensated for any travel expenses occurred while representing the board, the Nantahala and Highlands elected representatives receive the state per diem (.55 cents per mile) to travel to Franklin for monthly board meetings.

Rabun County has a five-member elected board to represent 2,250 students spread throughout five school sites. Money paid to Rabun County's Board of Education members total $3,000 a year. Each board member receives $600, or $50 per meeting. In the event that additional meetings occur outside of the one monthly scheduled meetings, board members receive an additional $50.

State and federal officials

According to North Carolina state statute, House and Senate representatives throughout the state who do not hold special offices are paid $13,951 a year and are given an expense allowance of $559 per month. In addition, representatives receive $0.29/mile in gas allowance for each trip to Raleigh, plus $104 a day for food and lodging. The per diem is paid seven days a week while the legislature is in session. They also receive $2,500 per two-year term for office supplies and long distance phone charges on the legislative phone.

Both the Speaker of the House and President Pro Tempore of the Senate are paid an annual salary of $38,151 and an expense allowance of $1,413 per month. The Speaker Pro Tempore of the House and the Deputy President Pro Tempore of the Senate are paid an annual salary of $21,739 and an expense allowance of $836 per month. The majority and minority leaders in the House and the majority and minority leaders in the Senate are paid an annual salary of $17,048 and an expense allowance of $666 per month.

Representatives elected in Georgia earn $17,342 annually. Georgia representatives also earn $173 per diem while in session.

Average elected members of Congress receive $174,000 per year. The Speaker of the House gets $223,500 a year, while the majority and minority leaders of both the Senate and the House, along with the President Pro Tempore, get paid $193,400 per year.

Congressional House members receive an allowance for personnel (up to $922,350) and another allowance for “ordinary and necessary” business expenses related to their duties, including travel. Congressmen can deduct up to $3,000 a year in living expenses while away from their congressional districts or home states.





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