I   have to admit it never has occurred to me -- when I've considered writing a check to a charity, contributing to an agency by payroll deduction or otherwise giving money for a good cause -- to question how much is being paid to the executive director or staff.

But it should have occurred to me.

I should have asked.

Now that I think about it, it absolutely does matter to me.

Does that make me petty? I don't think so.

Let's call it York County frugal. We're a pretty generous bunch here in York County, but don't think it's because we're stupid about how we handle money. We can pinch a dime with the best of them.

So let me put it this way: I'm resistant to donating money to anyone who has more money than I do to begin with. Because then I'm thinking they should be giving me some money, as I might need it more than they do.

I don't have a clue, for instance, what Melissa Smith, the executive director at the York County SPCA, earns. And I don't care, either.

Except that if I knew or found out that she earns twice as much as I do, I wouldn't be sending her a lot of my hard-earned cash.

And if I learned she earned three times more than I do, she wouldn't be getting any of my hard-earned cash. It's as simple as that.

Her cause is important to me. I think she does a great job. But I'd be expecting her to take a reduction in pay before asking me to contribute money to help run her agency.


Advertisement

The same goes for any executive director of any charity or nonprofit organization in York County.

Which brings us to York County President Commissioner Steve Chronister asking the question: Would York County taxpayers give money to nonprofits if they knew the top executives earned more than $120,000 a year?

As a lifelong York countian, permit me to answer that question: If we have that information in hand, most of us would not.

And, Mr. Chronister, if I knew the top executives earned upwards of $180,000 a year, it absolutely would make a difference to me.

Maybe I'm a tightwad. Well, OK, I am a tightwad.

But Chronister's right -- it's eye-opening to look at executive pay in those agencies/nonprofits that ask for and accept tax dollars from York County government every year.

True, most York countians probably don't ask themselves that question. Or if it does come up, it comes up too late -- after the money's been given or the check's been sent.

When I've thrown a $10 bill into the Salvation Army kettle, I haven't wondered first what the head honcho at the local Salvation Army is paid. I'm feeling generous, so I toss it in the pot.

But you have York County residents earning poverty wages or living month-to-month on Social Security who have no choice but to pay their county property taxes every year. It's their civic duty, after all, to help pay their share of the cost of government. That's the expectation -- pay your fair share.

To then have those dollars sent hither and yon to nonprofits whose top executives are paid two, three or four times more than the average income in York County is a slap in the face to taxpayers.

Especially if the donations are being made by county government to nonprofits most York countians wouldn't support (and apparently were not supporting) in the first place.

York County commissioners Chris Reilly and Doug Hoke aren't nearly as concerned about this issue as Chronister is. But they should be.

Not one dollar -- county tax dollars we're talking about here -- should be given to charity without asking for, receiving and considering the salaries of top executives.

Yes, a nonprofit's board of directors should have the right to set a pay scale for its employees. But they must do it knowing it might affect a York County resident's willingness to contribute to their cause.

I appreciate Chronister calling it to my attention.

From now on, I'm going to ask the question.

If I don't like the answer, I'm not writing a check.

And starting right now, I hope the county commissioners will do the same thing.

Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: lhicks@yorkdispatch.com.