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Fairfax County agencies jockey for salary bumps amid vacancy issues

Ron Kuley, president of the Fairfax County Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics union, talks during a budget hearing (via Fairfax County)

The Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office has 71 vacancies. There are over 200 vacancies at the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board. And that’s not all.

Staff vacancies continue to be a challenge at county agencies across the board, administrators and employee leaders told the Board of Supervisors at budget hearings last week.

“Staffing shortages particularly impact vulnerable populations and lead to increased waiting times for services,” CSB Member-at-Large Anne Whipple said at a hearing on Thursday (April 14).

The county’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2023, which begins July 1, adds 10 positions at the mental health services provider, bringing its total to 1,095 positions if all are filled, but it’s still facing significant shortages.

The advertised budget includes 4.01% raises through market rate adjustments as well as additional merit and performance increases. Uniformed public safety workers also get a 25-year longevity bump.

The county’s $4.8 billion general fund budget includes $79.26 million in unallocated funds and an additional $83 million from vehicle taxes due to soaring market values. County leaders have indicated that some of that money could be used to provide tax relief.

Ron Kuley, president of the Fairfax County Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics union, asked the board for an additional 4% salary increase for firefighter through lieutenant ranks, costing $6.7 million.

“This would greatly, greatly benefit with the recruitment and retention efforts and would keep us more in line with our comparative jurisdictions,” he said during Thursday’s budget hearing.

He said that’s more important than adding a 25-year longevity step increase, suggesting that the board redirect the $768,000 allocated to the step increase to the raise request.

Kuley said nearly 55 firefighters have left for neighboring jurisdictions in the last two years.

Calls for the county to increase compensation for its workers have also come from unions representing educators and general county employees, who cited inflation, housing costs, and other challenges that make it difficult for them to live in the county.

People can still submit written testimony until April 26, when the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to mark up the budget. The board will adopt a final budget on May 10.

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