Around Prince William County, officials are grumbling that getting funding out of the State Compensation Board is like twisting the arm of a dinosaur--impossible. However, they say they have little choice but to persist in their efforts to have the board pay for county jobs that have been created by the state.
Last week, county supervisors approved a resolution asking the compensation board, which many say is a political machine left over from the 1930s, to more fully fund the offices of the commonwealth's attorney, sheriff, court clerk, and finance administrator, all officials the county must elect under the state constitution. The sheriff also recently filed an appeal with the compensation board, asking for more money to run his office.
Theoretically, the state, via the compensation board, pays for the salaries and office expenses of these constitutional officials. But county spokesmen say the underfunded compensation board repeatedly comes up with unrealistically low salary levels and office budgets, leaving the county to make up the difference. The county now pays $1.7 million, or 30 percent, of the cost of the offices, according to county records.
In addition, the compensation board was forced to cut its contributions to the constitutional offices this year by 5 percent because of a cut in its own budget by the General Assembly.
"I can't hire people we need to hire," said Sheriff C. Allen Rollins this week of his appeal to the compensation board for more money.
However, there is little chance the county will win the appeal and receive additional funding, said officials from the compensation board, because the General Assembly changed the board's appeal process this year. In the past, a panel of judges could order the compensation board to pay localities more money. But now they can only order the board to ask for the money from the General Assembly, said board Chairman J.T. Shropshire.
The change in the compensation board appeal process was the result of a successful appeal by the Fairfax County sheriff's office last year, said Shropshire. He said a panel of three judges ordered the state board to pay Fairfax $700,000 more over two years for the cost of the sheriff's department. The General Assembly was forced to come up with the funds because the compensation board did not have them, he said.
"They then changed the appeal process," he said.
Despite the new appeal law, the compensation board is facing a record number of appeals this year--44 from individual officials and 20 from local governments, said John McE. Garrett, compensation board executive secretary. Most of these appeals stem from the board's 5 percent funding cut this year, he said.
He said the board has been allocated an extra $1.4 million. "We expect when we distribute this throughout the state that some of those appeals will be dropped," he said.
Prince William joins Essex, Prince Edward, and Glouster counties and the Virginia Association of Counties in its resolution to the General Assembly asking that the board be required to more fully fund the constitutional offices.