A proposal to increase the salaries of members of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors drew little opposition at a public hearing Wednesday evening.
The three members of the public who spoke at the hearing said they supported higher pay for the board. The only objections to the raises — which would take effect when a new board is seated in January 2020 — came from supervisors who expressed concerns about the amount of the increases and the timing of the proposal.
Supervisors’ salaries have not changed since 2008, when they were set at $50,000 for the chairman, $45,320 for the vice chairman and $41,200 for the other board members. Virginia law prohibit supervisors from increasing their own salaries, so raises can take effect only after a new board is elected.
Speaking at the hearing, Brent Campbell of Leesburg said compensating supervisors is “a way to enable average people who aren’t independently wealthy to be able to run for office.”
“I think it’s important . . . that if somebody wants to run for office, that they can afford to live in the district that they’re seeking to represent,” Campbell said at the hearing. “You all have a very, very important role in our county . . . and we need your full time and attention, to the extent that you’re able to give it.”
Catoctin District resident Mark Miller said that Loudoun is much more complex today and that the next board will face challenging issues, such as redistricting and the arrival of Metrorail in Loudoun.
“At a minimum, the chairman of the Board of Supervisors should be paid as the constitutional officers are,” Miller said. “It should be a full-time position.”
Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) said he and board chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) worked together to calculate the amount of proposed pay increases, which they pegged to the growth in the county government’s budget since 2008.
Letourneau said, “From my perspective, the question is . . . ‘What is a fair compensation?’ ”
The board is considering raising the salaries as high as $81,100 for the chair, $73,363 for the vice chair and $66,826 for the district supervisors in 2020. The salaries would increase by 2 percent each year of the next board’s term.
Vice Chair Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn), who has been the board’s most vocal opponent of the proposal, referred to the amount of the proposed increases last month as “obscene to biblical proportions.” On Wednesday, he described the raises as “excessive” and “downright ridiculous.”
“The optics and the timing of this are terrible,” Buona said. “I don’t think we’d have done this in [an] election year.
“The vote’s going to happen in the last month before we go on August recess, so everybody who votes yes can run and hide and not have to deal with their constituents,” he added. “This is so obvious.”
Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) said that she would not support raising the salaries as high as has been proposed but that she could support a smaller increase that would be equivalent to a 2 percent raise every year from 2008 to 2020.
“I don’t want to lose touch with my constituents who may not be able to afford everything they would like to afford,” she said. “So I think I need to be somewhat grounded in how high I think it’s appropriate to go.”
Randall responded to Buona’s comments, saying people would complain about the timing of the decision no matter when it happened.
“If we did this in September, people would be saying it’s back-to-school, and it’s not a good time,” she said. “If we did it near the holidays, it would be near the holidays,” Randall said.
“Not only am I not running and hiding, I’m going out and begging people — I’ve actually said, no matter what you think about it, come in to the board room and speak to us,” she added.
Letourneau agreed, noting that the board’s finance committee discussed the issue while school was still in session and that there have been multiple board business meetings since then.
“We’re here; we’re having public meetings,” he said. “I put this in my newsletter. I know Chair Randall’s done extensive outreach. Nobody’s trying to hide anything. If we were, we’re doing a really bad job of it.”
The supervisors are expected to vote on the salary increases at their business meeting Thursday.