County Should Buy Farm

I have read with interest the recent articles concerning the development of Shenstone Farm and we would like to add our support to the public sentiment that the county purchase the property from Toll Brothers rather than have it be developed. This would be a great example from the Board [of Supervisors], showing that they really want to slow growth, and it would affirm the results of the last election.

I understand that additional money would be required to purchase Shenstone Farm and that raising taxes to accomplish this would not be a palatable political solution. Perhaps the board should explore seeking corporate sponsorship from some of Loudoun's new, highly profitable high-tech companies, such as AOL, MCI/WorldCom, or the potential newcomer PSINet. For a sizable contribution ($2.5 million or more), or for the outright purchase of the Shenstone Farm and deeding it back to the county, naming rights could be granted. For example: AOL Shenstone Regional Park or MCI/WorldCom Shenstone Regional Park.

This would be similar to the arrangement of the Redskins selling the naming rights of Redskins Stadium, newly named FedEx Field. An arrangement such as this could give a company high visibility and show that they care about the community.

JOE RUDZINSKI

Hamilton

Clarifying Pay Raises

There has been some misinformation reported pertaining to the situation with the pay increases surrounding the county deputies. As I was chairman of the Internal Operations Committee at the time, this issue came under my committee's responsibilities. I would like to set the record straight.

The following actions related to compensation were approved by the Board of Supervisors during the FY 00 budget process:

* A 5 percent increase to the county pay scales. This increased the minimum and maximum of each pay band by 5 percent. This did not affect employee salaries (except the few whose salaries had to be "brought into" the new pay band).

* A 3.5 percent increase to employee salaries. This increase advanced salaries closer to the top of each pay band. Since the pay band maximum limits had already been increased by 5 percent, all employees were able to receive the 3.5 percent increase. In addition, the deputies who were near the top of their pay band received as much of the 6 percent raise for deputies as they could without exceeding the pay band. (It is my understanding that the minimum raise any deputy received was 5 percent.)

* A 6 percent increase for deputies. The General Assembly authorized funds for base salary increases for Compensation Board-funded deputy positions in the sheriff's office. Not every deputy comes under the salaries allowed by the Comp Board; some come under it fully, some partially, and some do not come under the Comp Board salaries at all. The sheriff chooses to come under the county pay plan because it means they all get paid more. The Board of Supervisors decided to use the funds to provide a 6 percent base pay increase for sworn deputies. (In order to give all deputies the raise, we had to appropriate additional funds from the general fund. Under normal county policy, the top of the pay band is enforced. So, any deputy whose salary was within 6 percent of the pay band maximum would not receive the full 6 percent.)

(I believe that the State Police and prison guard salaries come fully under the Compensation Board. It should be noted that State Police officers and prison guards who are at the limit in their pay bands did not get a raise outside of their pay bands. Also, there are paid firefighters in Loudoun County who are capped in their pay bands who cannot go beyond their pay band, either.)

Sheriff Steve Simpson said that the supervisors had reneged on the pay raise and that we had said that all deputies would get the 6 percent pay raise. He also said that we could make "market adjustments" and go over the caps of pay bands with pay raises. Also, Chairman Dale Polen Myers said at the board meeting on Dec. 1: "You had a policy that said you could at least give them a one-time bonus. You're not even giving them that. You gave them nothing." This, simply, isn't true.

Market adjustments are approved by the county administrator for classes of positions for which there is a proven and significant market problem. Such adjustments are percentages of base pay and are applied to all salaries within a class (e.g. computer programmers, crossing guards, etc.). They are not applied to selected employee salaries in a class. There is no market adjustment on deputy classifications. Market adjustments are separate from, and above and beyond, the pay band. There are many county employees who are capped in their pay bands, including firefighters. To allow one department to go over the pay band would be discrimination against other county employees.

The county administrator sent a memo on April 8 to all department and agency heads (including the sheriff). It included the statement:

"6 percent Compensation Board Increase--Sheriff's Office. At the beginning of the pay period that contains December 1st, sworn personnel in the Sheriff's Office will receive a 6 percent salary increase using state funds. This is in addition to the previous 3.5 percent performance-based increase. In implementing the 6 percent increase the top of the pay band will be enforced. Therefore, it is possible that some employees (depending on their position in the pay band after the 3.5 percent performance increase) may not receive the full 6 percent."

In April 1997, I brought forward a proposal to have a separate pay structure for public safety personnel similar to the military. I knew it was a problem having pay band caps and wanted to solve the problem. I said at that time that public safety personnel serving in dangerous jobs should be compensated for their risks and be allowed to receive special pay, which would certainly apply in this case. Unfortunately, I received very little support for the plan. At the Internal Operations Committee meeting where I had it listed on the agenda, and we discussed it, the sheriff didn't even show up. Without his support, the plan died from lack of interest. Since April 1999, when we voted to pass along all the money we received from the State Compensation Board, not one single person ever brought it to my attention that they disagreed with or had a problem with the county administrator's memo of April 8. If the sheriff had come to me, we probably could have been working on this problem all summer and fall. As it is, it wasn't brought up until just before the first Board of Supervisors meeting in December. For example, we could have worked on a system to reclassify the deputies who were at the top of their pay band. To come forward Dec. 15 and attack me personally and the board for abiding by state code and county policy is very unfair to us.

I wish I could wave a magic wand and give all public safety personnel higher salaries, but I can't. However, I do believe that we who voted the way we did on Dec. 1 and 15 deserve an apology from the sheriff. My motion of Dec. 1 requires the county administrator to work to fix this problem during the next budget cycle. We must do this the right way, so that the problem is fixed permanently. If we had voted to give the deputies the money as a bonus, they would only receive it this one time. I think they should get it permanently, so that it will also be reflected in their retirement pay.

DAVE McWATTERS

Former supervisor,

Broad Run District

Seniors Enjoy Tour

It was my pleasure to be a passenger on the Annual Christmas Lights tour to Bull Run Regional Park. The trip was cosponsored by the Douglass Community Center and Virginia Coach Co. For the 12th year in a row, the Virginia Coach Co. provided the transportation free of charge for senior citizens from around the county to participate in this trip. The seniors all donated canned food for Interfaith Relief. Admission to the park was paid by The Douglass Community Center Advisory Board. The staff and drivers were most courteous and helpful. I would like to thank all those involved in making this great trip available, and I look forward to it in the future.

MARGARET RANDALL

Leesburg