Herrity: 45% Pay Hike Outrageous; Board Out Of Touch Union Chief Says

March 20, 2023


By Michael O’Connell

Fairfax County residents have a chance on Tuesday to weigh in on a proposal to give the board of supervisors a 45 percent pay hike.

Clarification: This story was updated with U.S. Census data regarding the annual median income in Fairfax County.

FAIRFAX COUNTY, VA — Whether or not the members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors should give themselves a 45 percent pay raise is the subject of a public hearing scheduled for 4 p.m., on Tuesday at the government center.

Currently, supervisors are paid $95,000 and the chairman earns $100,000. If adopted, the new pay range for supervisors would be between $125,000 and $130,000, and $140,000 to $145,000 for the chairman.

While David Walrod, president of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, acknowledged board members do important work in keeping the county running and certainly deserve to earn a living wage, he questioned how a 45 percent pay increase could be justified while many teachers and county employees struggle to make ends meet.

“I think that really speaks to, one, what an expensive area Fairfax County actually is to live in, and two, it’s just a little bit out of touch with the actual Fairfax County community,” he said.

Most teachers don’t earn $95,000 a year and those who do are nearing the end of their careers, according to Walrod. Many teachers and public sector employees will never have a salary of $95,000.

“They’re talking about what they’re making now and adding another 45 percent on top of that,” he said. “That’s pretty big chunk of change.”

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust introduced the motion to raise board member salaries at its March 7 meeting.

“In addition to counting base work, the job of a supervisor or chairman requires participation in a growing number of regional bodies, in which most board members participate, but are not compensated,” Foust said, justifying his measure. “Our constituents rightly expect us to always be available to them in this electronic era, which makes the time committed to this job more involved and complex than ever.”

Other board members spoke in support of Foust’s measure at the meeting.

Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross, who like Foust is not running for reelection this year, described the board of supervisors as an executive and legislative board and its members should be similarly remunerated.

“Now that we’re virtual, we’re 24/7,” she said “You’re answering emails because you’re on all the time.”

Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik noted that the supervisors’ current yearly salary of $90,000 was well below Fairfax County’s average median income of $127,000 for households, according to data quoted in the measure. The AMI for individuals is $54,000. [Editor’s note: In 2021 dollars, the AMI for households in Fairfax County was $133, 974 and individuals $61,947, according to U.S. Census data.

In order for the board to attract more women and diverse candidates to run for county office, she said the supervisors needed to “make it a little bit easier for those candidates to come forward to make that sacrifice and not to have their families absolutely sacrifice not just the time, but the income in order to be able to live in this county.”

Only two supervisors on the 10-person board voted against the measure: Walter Alcorn (Hunter Mill) and Pat Herrity (Springfield).

“I do not support raising supervisor salaries more than what county employees have received during the past eight years,” Alcorn said after the vote.

The last time the supervisors gave themselves a pay increase was 2016, and Herrity, the lone Republican on the board, pointed out that many of the conditions were the same back then.

“Our employee compensation promises weren’t addressed,” he said. “But it’s worse. This time around we’re again not addressing our compensation promises. We’ve got retention issues across multiple resident-facing agencies, specifically the police department and paramedics and psychologists.”

At the same meeting that Foust introduced his pay raise measure, the board chose not to increase the real estate tax rate. This means that when the board votes on the final fiscal year 2024 budget, the tax rate will stay $1.11 per $100 of assessed value.

Even with a flat tax rate, property owners whose property assessment values went up would see higher tax bills. Fairfax County homeowners had an average increase of 6.97 percent in their 2023 real estate assessments. The average tax bill will increase just over $520 under the current tax rate.

“We’re in the midst of high inflation … high gas taxes and other post-pandemic challenges, and we still have a substantial tax bill increase on the table for the average homeowner,” Herrity said. “I don’t know how we give ourselves a 45 percent raise with all of that. Prioritizing a board salary increase without addressing those issues is outrageous.”

The board is only allowed to adjust its compensation during an election year and is required to hold a public hearing and vote on a pay change before April 15. Any change they approved would be applied to the new board that was sworn in after November’s general election.

The proposal as written contains a clause that if the measure passes, individual board members are not required to take a pay hike if they so choose.

Herrity said that clause was clearly political maneuvering during an election year.

After a majority of the board voted to approve Foust’s measure on March, the public hearing was set for March 21, so that supervisors could vote on whether or not to give themselves a raise before the April 15 deadline.