The Board of Supervisors’ finance committee has recommended a pay bump for planning commissioners and members of the next county board.
Under the proposed increase, the salary for supervisors would increase 62 percent. For board members, that would mean a jump from $41,200 to $66,826. The compensation for the vice chairman would increase from $45,320 to $73,363, and the pay for the county chairman would rise from $50,000 to $81,100. Thereafter, supervisors would receive a 2 percent pay bump for the next three years. State code does not allow elected officials to index their pay to automatically change, such as with automatic cost-of-living adjustments.
The changes would not take effect until January 1, 2020, after the next county election, another requirement of state law.
“I do think it’s necessary that we take a look at compensation, and frankly I think when you get out in public and talk to people, most of them don’t realize what the compensation is, or the fact that most of us have other jobs,” said Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles).
The salary for board members has not changed since 2008, when it was nearly doubled for board members from $22,400, a rate set in 2000.
Letourneau worked with County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) to devise the pay raise plan, which he said is designed to follow the growth of the county operating budget. Since 2008, that budget has grown from $340.1 million to $504.2 million, an increase of 48 percent, or an average of 4 percent a year. At that rate, the operating budget will have grown by about 60 percent in 2020.
The proposed 2020 salary equates to a 4.1 percent pay raise every year since 2008.
Randall said a low supervisor salary could exclude people good candidates with low incomes. She left her job to serve as county chairwoman, and said she took “an enormous financial hit” to do that.
“I’m not complaining, I wanted to do that,” she said. “I chose to do that. However, there are some people who maybe wouldn’t be able to do that, and would be very good public servants and public officials. And so to not be able to keep pace, to not raise salaries for years, is just unrealistic.”
Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn), the lone dissenting vote during Tuesday night’s debate, said the raise is “obscene to biblical proportions.” He compared Loudoun’s salaries to Prince William County’s, which stand at $49,452 for the chairman, and $43,422 for other supervisors.
“Those numbers are almost dead on to our board, they are the best comparison to any jurisdiction, they have a population bigger than Loudoun County’s,” Buona said. He pointed out his dissenting vote on raising district supervisors’ office budgets, and having turned down that budget increase for the Ashburn office.
“The fiscal year ends in 18 days, and I will return roughly $15,000 of my budget back the county as fund balance. I will have underspent it even not taking the increase. So you’ve got to manage.”
He also argued the board doesn’t lack for quality candidates.
“If we think the salaries are inhibiting putting quality people up here, that’s an indictment on ourselves,” he said.
“I know that there will be citizen blowback,” Randall said. “I will stand before any citizen and make the case that this is the right thing to do.”
“The problem here, quite frankly, is we deal with this like 15 years at a time,” Letourneau said after the meeting. “So of course you get these giant [increases.] I mean, the last time the board did this, they doubled it.” He said the proposed increases seeks to set “a more reasonable baseline” for supervisor pay, and pointed to increased responsibilities for the board not only in the county, but on regional bodies.
“I think a lot of people assume that it’s a full-time job, and they find out that it’s not, and they’re surprised,” he said.
The finance committee’s recommendation was passed 4-1, Buona opposed. It will now go to the full Board of Supervisors on June 22, and supervisors say they will hold a public hearing before adoption.
The finance committee unanimously recommended raises for planning commissioners. If approved by the full board, the Planning Commissioner chairman would see a raise from $22,334 to $30,000; the vice chairman, who is paid the same as other commissioners, from $21,315 to $27,500; and other commissioners from $21,315 to $25,000. Those changes also would not take effect until the next Board of Supervisors, which appoints the Planning Commission, takes office.
This article was updated Wednesday, June 14 at 12:45 p.m. to correct an error about the vice chairman’s current salary.