Fairfax County supervisors, citing the county's strained budget rather than the performance of its top administrator, yesterday voted County Executive Anthony H. Griffin a 4 percent pay raise for this year, the smallest of his tenure.
The board unanimously raised Griffin's base salary to $187,493 from $180,283, effective immediately, and added $2,000 annually to his retirement account, bringing his package of salary and benefits to $201,493. Supervisors did not give Griffin a bonus as they did last year, when he received a 7 percent raise, a $5,000 bonus and $3,500 a year in retirement funds.
"We were showing restraint in tough budget times," Supervisor Stuart Mendelsohn (R-Dranesville) said, noting that the sluggish economy is forcing many private companies to withhold raises to top officials.
Also yesterday, supervisors voted 7 to 3 to go ahead with a controversial survey of teenagers that will include nine explicit questions on sexual behavior. The party-line vote, with Democrats in favor of the survey and Republicans against it, came after a spirited debate. Some supervisors argued that the survey would yield information that could be used to change risky activity among teenagers. Others saw a danger that explicit questions about sex might tarnish the county's reputation.
"Collectively, we could become known as a real problem county," Supervisor Elaine N. McConnell (Springfield) said before voting with fellow Republicans to delay the survey. "I would hate to see our county have a reputation."
The survey will be distributed to 10,000 randomly chosen sixth-, eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders in April. Only sophomores and seniors will be asked questions on sex, which will address birth control, frequency of sex, numbers of sexual partners, oral sex, the use of alcohol and drugs before sex and whether a girl has been pregnant or a boy gotten a girl pregnant.
Parents and students can opt out of the survey, but the questions will not be sent home to parents beforehand. The survey asks more than 100 questions on a variety of topics, including drug use, suicide and family relationships.
Supervisors, who will spend about $60,000 to conduct the survey, had the final say over its content, even though the Fairfax School Board debated the issue last week.
Democrats on the county board said a similar survey taken in 2001, while not mentioning sex, revealed important information about alcohol use, depression and the detachment some teenagers said they felt from their neighbors and community.
"The first survey showed that the health and welfare of our youth is the most important thing we do for the health of this community," board Chairman Katherine K. Hanley (D) said.
Other proponents said county leaders would be irresponsible to avoid frank talk about sexual behavior just because it may make parents uncomfortable.
"We can hold our heads in the sand and pretend none of this behavior goes on," Supervisor Gerald E. Connolly (D-Providence) said. "But we live in a world with an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases."
The board agreed to one change requested by Republicans: that students who answer no to the questions on whether they have had oral sex or intercourse would not be required to answer the rest.
Even with Griffin's raise, his salary is less than that of Fairfax School Superintendent Daniel A. Domenech, whose 4.6 percent raise last summer brought his annual pay to $246,982 and rankled some supervisors, School Board Republicans and county activists.
"Compared to the School Board's action, this is a responsible raise," Mendelsohn said of Griffin's pay.
Griffin's salary is less than that of Montgomery County's appointed chief administrative officer, who is paid $189,454. Montgomery's elected County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) makes $136,732. Prince William County Executive Craig S. Gerhart will make $170,000 starting March 1.
Griffin, who was promoted to county executive in 1999, received a 5 percent raise in 2001.
Several Fairfax supervisors said yesterday that they continue to be pleased with Griffin's leadership. They applauded his efforts to equip county police and fire departments for another terrorist attack and credited him for continued high morale among county workers.
But board members also said that few programs or salaries will be immune from spending cuts as state aid shrinks and soaring real estate assessments force tax bills up for a third consecutive year.
Supervisor Penelope A. Gross (D-Mason) said some board members were concerned that Griffin had not communicated with them as quickly as they would have liked during last fall's sniper attacks. One of the victims was shot dead at a Home Depot in the county.
"But that's a minor issue," she said. "Tony continues to be a quiet, thoughtful and steady hand. Nothing flashy."
Staff writer Matthew Mosk contributed to this report.