The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors voted 5 to 4 Thursday to approve a salary increase of about 62 percent for its members, a raise that will take effect after the next election.
Pay for supervisors has not increased since 2008 and will remain frozen until 2020, because Virginia does not permit supervisors to raise their own salaries while in office.
The salaries currently are $50,000 for the chair, $45,320 for the vice chair and $41,200 for the other supervisors. In 2020, they will increase to $81,100 for the chair, $73,363 for the vice chair and $66,826 for the other supervisors. The salaries will then increase by 2 percent each year of the next board’s term.
Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) and Board Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) led the effort to raise the salaries, saying the supervisors’ jobs had changed significantly since 2008. Letourneau said he and Randall had pegged the proposed increase to the expected growth of the county budget between 2008 and 2020.
“That’s the amount that the workload has increased for the board,” Letourneau said. “That’s what we supervise — a county that has grown increasingly more complex, a county that has significantly more responsibilities for individual members of the board.”
Randall said the position of board chair is no longer a part-time job because of the many mandatory meetings, adding that many people are unable to run for office because they cannot afford to leave their jobs.
Supervisor Ron A. Meyer (R-Broad Run) said it is important to “make sure that we allow access for all demographics to be able to run for county office.”
The supervisors who opposed the proposed raises fell into two camps. Supervisors Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian) and Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin) said board members should be focused on service rather than compensation. Board Vice Chair Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) and Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) favored smaller raises, equivalent to a 2 percent annual increase since 2008.
“I believe in service . . . and that in serving the community, there should be sacrifice,” Volpe said.
Higgins agreed, saying all of the supervisors ran for office knowing how much they would be paid.
“This job was never intended to be full time,” he said.
Buona, who has used the adjectives “obscene,” “excessive” and “ridiculous” to describe the amount of the proposed raises, said the supervisors’ aides have taken on much of the increased workload.
“They do a lot of the work for you, and . . . a lot of the things people go to, they go to not only because it is in the community, but they go to it because they want to show their face because they’re running for reelection,” Buona said. “Come on, that’s just the facts of life.”
Buona proposed smaller pay increases of about 17 percent, which he said tracked with the Consumer Price Index and the cumulative raises county employees have received since 2008.
“The board should not treat itself differently than the way we treated staff,” Buona said.
“The board is by code and practice very different from the rest of the staff in ways that are both positive and negative to the board,” Letourneau responded, adding that the supervisors are not eligible for some benefits and programs afforded to county employees.
Letourneau said he had tried to determine the appropriate level of compensation for “the type of responsibilities that come with the job of overseeing what will be a $3 billion enterprise in a county of 400,000 people.”
After Buona’s motion to approve the smaller raises failed, the board approved the 62 percent pay increases, with Supervisors Tony R. Buffington Jr. (R-Blue Ridge) and Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling) joining Letourneau, Meyer and Randall in support.