Supervisors Nearing Years-Long Goal on Employee Pay

The end is in sight for a project to update the county’s job descriptions and pay scales that has lasted most of this Board of Supervisors’ term.

Supervisors launched the project in May 2016, the first year of their term, after seeing county employees were generally underpaid compared to their peers around Northern Virginia. Each year since has been part of a three-year project to make compensation and classification for Loudoun’s close to 5,000 employees more organized and more competitive with other governments in the region. Over the past two years, supervisors have approved salary increases above typical annual raises to catch up Loudoun’s public servants to their peers.

On Nov. 7, supervisors expect to vote on one of the final steps of that plan, which will lay out the new way salaries will be determined in Loudoun. No employees are expected to see pay cuts under the new plan, but some may see more raises.

General employees would see their salaries fall within defined ranges based on their job title, qualifications and experience. Meanwhile, fire-rescue and sheriff’s office employees would be placed into a 19-level step pay system, with two new ranks added to Loudoun County Combined Fire-Rescue and one more added to the Sheriff’s Office.

Firefighters would see five percent salary increases in their first two step increases, and three percent thereafter. The two new ranks, Firefighter II and Master Technician, would offer lower-ranking staff members more opportunities for promotion.

The new rank in the sheriff’s office would be a colonel, second to the sheriff and running the office in the sheriff’s absence. Deputies, too, would see five percent increases in their first two raises and three percent increases thereafter.

The county’s consultant, Evergreen Solutions, found 1,250 job titles in Loudoun County government today. After analyzing those jobs based on their tasks and responsibilities, the consultant recommended reducing that to 604 job titles.

As county employees get their new pay rates and job titles, the county will also be addressing the issue of pay compression.

“Compression many times occurs in an up-swinging economy, like the economy we’re in now,” said Evergreen Solutions Executive Vice President Jeff Ling. “What we find is the person we hired several years ago would come to work for the county for less money than someone we need to hire today, and when we hire that new person roughly what we’re paying the person that’s been here several years, we create compression.”

 The plan also sets up Loudoun to avoid getting so far behind in the future. Supervisors have already approved the hire of a classification and compensation manager who will monitor those issues going forward. That person will also be able to make some exceptions for hard-to-fill positions.

The board’s finance committee recommended the new pay plans to the Board of Supervisors unanimously Oct. 8.

There are still a few steps left.

The final report on employee classification and compensation is expected in March. Finance committee Chairman Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) said that among county employees there was “some skepticism that the board would see this through.”

“This is a milestone for us. We are finally reaching the point where we’re competitive with the other jurisdictions,” Letourneau said. “We have a wholesale philosophy change for our public safety employees, which is on par with what we’re seeing and what the competition is out there. We’re sending a message to our employees that we want to keep you, we want you here, we want you to stay here, and we’re going to pay you accordingly.”

“Our competitors—Fairfax, Prince William—we’re putting you guys on notice,” said Supervisor Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling). “We’re still going to lose some people here and there, but hopefully we’re going to stop the revolving door of folks coming in, staying here for a few years and then going to our competitors.”

rgreene@loudounnow.com

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