The Board of Supervisors has narrowly approved a 62 percent raise over its current salary for the next board when it takes office in 2020.
For board members, that means a jump from $41,200 to $66,826. The compensation for the next vice chairman will increase from $45,320 to $73,363, and the pay for the county chairman would rise from $50,000 to $81,100. Thereafter, supervisors will 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.
That pay increase is designed to track with the growth of the county’s general operating budget since the board’s last pay raise in 2008. It equates to where salaries would be now if supervisors received approximately 4 percent raises every year.
That passed 5-4, with Supervisors Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles), Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling), Tony R. Buffington Jr. (R-Blue Ridge), Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run), and Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) in support. Board Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn), Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg), Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin), and Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian) were opposed.
Letourneau, who led the initiative alongside Randall, said that is fair compensation for “the type of responsibilities that come with the job of overseeing what will be a $3 billion enterprise in a county of 400 thousand people.”
“The buck stops right here. We have a responsibility. The amount of money in this proposal is a very fair compensation for that amount of responsibility,” Letourneau said.
Letourneau and Randall argued the job of supervisor is a different job than it was when the salary was last set in 2008.
“It’s not necessarily a raise for a member of the Board of Supervisors, it’s a classification of what the job is, similar to any other change when there’s a change to what the job is,” Letourneau said. “It’s not the same job, is the bottom line.”
And Randall and Meyer argued that low board pay could be keeping lower-income people from running for office.
“You should not do this job to be rich, you are correct about that, and I don’t think anyone up here is saying they want to get rich,” Randall said. “But what I am saying is there are people who leave careers to do this job.”
Randall left her own job to take on the role of county chairwoman. She has said she took a significant pay cut to do so, and was able to do so because of her husband’s income.
“I would love to open this opportunity up to other people,” Randall said. “I don’t know who else may or may not want to run. […] We may be voting on allowing someone who might never have been able to run against us to run against us, because they otherwise couldn’t afford it.”
And Meyer argued it would allow supervisors to dedicate more time to their constituents.
“I don’t believe that this is necessarily a full-time salary,” Meyer said. “I believe that this allows many of the board to consider pulling back a little bit from their job.”
Buona, one of the dissenting votes, offered his own substitution, which is roughly equivalent to what the board would be paid had it received the same raises as county staff—or about 2 percent per year since 2008. That proposal would have paid the chairman $60,600, the vice chairman $55,000, and other supervisors $50,000 in 2020. It would also have increased pay by 2 percent each of the remaining three years in that term.
“I agree it’s not the same job, I agree with that, but you have a lot of things you didn’t have at the beginning of this period in 2008,” Buona said. “They only started staff aides at around that time.” He pointed out that staffing in district offices today ranges from one to four aides. He also said the raise puts the board before county staff: “I think that if you’re not willing to support the proposal, you’re sending a message that you’re more important than staff.”
Higgins agreed that the solution would not be larger raises for supervisors, but larger increases in district office budgets.
“Adding pay isn’t going to increase any of our time, because we only have 24 hours in a day, so that doesn’t change anything,” Higgins said. “What will give you more time is what Supervisor Buona talked about, and that’s increasing the money you have in your budget.”
“I believe that you want to give of your time, your talent, and your treasure, and that in serving the community there should be sacrifice, that it is not about a paycheck,” Volpe said.
After three years of 2 percent increases, the chairman in 2023 will be paid $86,063.97, the vice chairman will be paid $77,853.40, and other supervisors will be paid $70,916.29.
“The best thing about this motion […] is it increases the pay by 2 percent every year for the next term, which means we don’t ever have to have this discussion like this again,” Letourneau said. “Because unless somebody comes in with a philosophy that I don’t agree with, we will never have to have this type of huge gap between years that the board has ever looked at salary, and that’s the problem. That’s why we’re in this really impossible discussion.”