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Fairfax County Public Schools (file photo)

(Updated at 11 a.m. on 6/27/2023) The Fairfax County School Board voted 9-1 last night (Monday) to raise member salaries to $48,000 with an additional $2,000 for the board chair, starting Jan. 1, 2024.

Aiming lower than what staff proposed, the raises are comparable to compensation for other paid school boards governing large school systems elsewhere in the country and raises approved in previous years, Mount Vernon District School Board representative Karen Corbett-Sanders said.

At-large member Abrar Omeish opposed the motion, saying that she struggled to support it “from a moral perspective” when “education in general is hurting.” Hunter Mill District representative Melanie Meren and Sully District representative Stella Pekarsky abstained.

The raises will take effect on Jan. 1, 2024. All school board seats will be up for election on Nov. 7.

FCPS staff recommended raising the annual pay for each of the 12 elected school board members to $60,404. An additional $2,000 increase is proposed for the board chair, a position that changes each year.

Prior to the board meeting, School Board Chair Rachna Sizemore-Heizer told FFXnow that the staff proposal “would align future board members’ modest compensation with new starting teacher salaries,” noting that the board has raised its pay just three times in the past 35 years, most recently in 2015.

A new teacher with a bachelor’s degree and a 260-day contract will make $66,177 for fiscal year 2024, which starts July 1, according to FCPS’ salary scales.

“Increasing compensation for future school board members acknowledges the significant time commitment of the work in one of the nation’s largest and most complex school systems and opens the door to public service for Fairfax County residents with diverse backgrounds and experiences who may not be able to consider serving otherwise,” Sizemore-Heizer said.

Like the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, the school board is required by state law to vote on any member pay raises, which can only be proposed before July 1 of the year of an election.

Fairfax County’s school board last approved raises by a 5-4 vote in April 2015, bumping the salary for each member up from $20,000 to the current $32,000 rate. Virginia lets school boards give their chair an additional increase of up to $2,000, so the chair receives $34,000 right now.

In a summary, FCPS staff highlighted the school board’s various duties as it oversees the largest public school district in Virginia:

School Board members are responsible for developing and setting school division policy, approving the annual budget, hiring the Superintendent, and adjudicating student disciplinary and school division employee appeals. They spend many hours preparing for and attending official meetings, work sessions, committee meetings, public hearings, and other functions – nearly 150 meetings in the 2022-23 school year alone. Additionally, Board members attend school, PTA, and community meetings and events, visit schools, attend required professional development programs, and communicate with students, parents, staff, stakeholders, and other constituents.

The Board of Supervisors approved salaries on March 21 of $123,283 for supervisors and $138,283 for the chairman — slightly lower rates than what county staff had initially proposed. It was the board’s first raise since 2015.

While that vote was preceded by a public hearing with sometimes emotional testimony by residents and county workers, the school board’s vote took place around 1 p.m. without public comment. The Code of Virginia doesn’t appear to require a hearing, only a vote by the school board.

Notably, only three school board members are seeking reelection this year: Karl Frisch (Providence District), Melanie Meren (Hunter Mill) and Mason District representative Ricardy Anderson (Mason).

Sizemore-Heizer, an at-large member, is campaigning for the Braddock District seat after Megan McLaughlin announced in February that she’ll retire when her third and final term ends on Dec. 31.

At-large member Abrar Omeish, Karen Corbett Sanders (Mount Vernon), Tamara Derenak Kaufax (Franconia) and Elaine Tholen (Dranesville) have also opted out of reelection bids.

The other members — Karen Keys-Gamarra (at-large), Laura Jane Cohen (Springfield) and Stella Pekarsky (Sully) — are running for General Assembly seats. All of them won the Democratic primary for their respective races last Tuesday (June 20).

SEIU Virginia 512 Fairfax County representatives advocate for more worker compensation to Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay’s office (courtesy SEIU Virginia 512)

With over $110 million in unallocated funds to work with, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors moved yesterday (Tuesday) to address employee compensation, tax relief and other priorities.

As approved by the board 9-1, nearly all of that available money will go toward reducing the real estate tax rate by 1.5 cents and fully funding salary market rate adjustments for county employees — items totaling $47 million and $54.9 million, respectively.

Other revisions to the county’s advertised budget for fiscal year 2024 include support for bamboo removal on park land, additional staffing for the 24-hour domestic violence hotline, and the creation of a self-help legal center in the Fairfax County Courthouse.

“The adjustments I’ve outlined here show a true balance between tax relief, investing in county employees, standing up and fighting for our school system, and also making sure that the core services that have made this county…are supported in this budget,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said when introducing the mark-up package.

The budget proposal that County Executive Bryan Hill presented in February kept the county’s real estate tax rate flat at $1.11 per $100 of assessed value, but with the average residential bill calculated to increase by about $520, board members indicated that they would look for ways to cut the rate.

With yesterday’s vote, the board agreed to adopt a rate of $1.095 per $100 of value, which will lower the average increase to $412.

Herrity proposes cuts to schools budget

Several supervisors expressed disappointment at not being able to make a bigger cut. Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross stated she had hoped for a 3-cent reduction, and Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity proposed an “alternative” budget that he said would take five cents off.

The reduction would’ve been achieved by cutting $100 million from the county’s funding for Fairfax County Public Schools and putting $31 million for affordable housing on hold, among other cuts, according to a plan Herrity shared at a pre-mark-up session on Friday (April 28).

After FCPS told the board in a memo that Herrity’s proposal would “most definitely” prevent the school system from fully covering worker salary increases, he revised the proposal yesterday to suggest cutting $31 million from schools, taking one additional cent off the tax rate.

“I’m all for giving schools all the resources they need to address the challenges of the pandemic and challenges of our kids, but the spending needs to be done in a responsible way,” Herrity said.

Other supervisors blasted Herrity’s proposal as “budgeting by ambush” and “completely out-of-touch.” McKay noted that any reduction in salary increases for teachers would mean losing state money contingent on average raises of at least 2.5% for instructional positions in FY 2024, which begins July 1.

“The Herrity budget proposal doesn’t cut waste,” Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw said. “I think you were trying to find waste. Instead of waste, you found teacher salaries and textbooks. It’s not cutting fat from the FCPS budget, it’s cutting into the bone.”

Support for FCPS constitutes 52% of Hill’s proposed $5.1 billion budget, which includes a $144 million increase for the school system compared to last year. Read More

Town of Herndon government offices (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Another round of compensation increases could be on the horizon for some Town of Herndon bodies.

The Herndon Town Council is considering a proposal to increase the compensation for members on the Architectural Review Board (ARB), Historic District Review Board (HDRB), Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals, resulting in an annual increase of $20,400 overall.

The increases would go into effect in July, if approved. It’s in the early phases of the town’s review process and, at an April 18 work session, was placed on the council’s consent agenda for future consideration.

Councilmember Cesar del Aguila said the compensation increase might increase the diversity of candidates who apply, though he noted that it was possible that presumption could be “completely wrong on the statistical side.”

“There are segments of our community where $35 is a lot of money,” del Aguila said. “The thinking was if you invest a little bit, you might reach a broader segment of residents.”

Councilmember Donielle Scherff also said it could boost the “diversity of opportunity” for applicants.

Mayor Sheila Olem, however, noted that some people may not simply seek specific positions due to life circumstances. Prior to her role as mayor, she served on the town’s appeals board because meetings were on a monthly basis and did not interfere with her family commitments, she said.

For ARB and HDRB members, compensation would increase from $100 to $250 per month, $175 to 250 per month for PC members and $50 to $75 per month for Board of Zoning Appeals members.

Last year, the council instituted its first pay increase in 15 years.

The move — which passed as part of the budget with one dissenting vote — increased annual pay from $4,000 to $10,000 for council members and $6,000 to $12,000 for the mayor.

SEIU Virginia 512 Fairfax President Tammie Wondong advocates for better worker compensation at a public hearing on proposed Board of Supervisors pay raises (via Fairfax County)

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will get its first salary increase in eight years, starting next January.

The current board voted 8-2 last night (Tuesday) to raise the pay to $123,283 for a supervisor position and to $138,283 for the chairman — slightly lower than the ranges that were proposed on March 7.

Based on staff calculations, the approved increase for board members is in line with what general county employees received, on average, in merit and market rate adjustments since the board last got a raise in 2015, according to Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust.

“Supervisor compensation should be set at a level that would enable anyone to serve regardless of personal circumstances. To advance that goal, I think, is appropriate,” Foust said before putting the motion up for a vote.

The vote came after a public hearing that lasted over two hours, with some speakers becoming emotional as they shared stories of how they’ve struggled with the area’s rising cost-of-living or how employee vacancies and hiring challenges have affected county services, from parks to support for foster care families.

Aside from one Braddock District resident who suggested they would “not be out of line,” considering inflation over the past eight years, all the speakers voiced opposition to the originally proposed raises that could’ve increased supervisor salaries up to $130,000 and the chairman’s up to $145,000.

“Too many are just getting by, and others are on the verge of falling into crisis,” Carolyn Bivens said. “Respectfully, in my opinion, the case has not been made for making the Board of Supervisors positions full time. More importantly, a 35 to 45% increase would be viewed as tone-deaf in this environment.”

Some said they support the board getting pay raises, but the amounts advertised were “insulting” when the county is only proposing 2% market rate adjustments for workers in its next budget, rather than the 5% that was forecast.

Other jurisdictions in Virginia are advertising MRA increases of up to 6-9%, according to Fairfax Workers Coalition Executive Director David Lyons.

He acknowledged that Virginia law requires a different process for adjusting the compensation of elected officials than for other public employees, but the proposal created a perception “that you care more about yourselves than you do your workers.”

“What we do have is a shortage of human service workers. We have a shortage of cops. We have a shortage in solid waste collection that is causing the county to contract out good jobs,” he said. “And in the case of all these jobs, citizens will suffer as the vacancies grow, as the quality drops and as real experience keeps going out the door. That’s why this proposal struck people as wrong.” Read More

Fairfax County Government Center (file photo)

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors isn’t holding a public hearing on its proposed salary increases until Tuesday (March 21), but some county workers have already made their opposition known.

A union representing over 2,000 county government employees criticized the proposal as a blow to workers, whose projected pay raises aren’t expected to be fully funded in the county’s next budget.

“Despite our calls for wage fairness for county employees, it appears the County has another priority — raises for politicians,” SEIU Virginia 512 Fairfax President Tammie Wondong said. “A meager 2% raise combined with the crushing weight of wage compression has left us feeling devalued. When employees have to work multiple jobs to get by or can’t afford to live in the county, it’s clear change is needed.”

With 33 years of work for the county under her belt, Wondong says the disparity between what the board is considering for itself compared to employees illustrates the need for “a union contract to achieve pay fairness.”

The Board of Supervisors approved collective bargaining in October 2021, but the Fire and Rescue Department is the only unit to officially elect a union representative so far.

Put forward by Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust on March 7, the raises would push the salaries for board members up from $95,000 to $124,000-130,000 per year and from $100,000 to $140,000-145,000 a year for the board chair.

The high end of those ranges would amount to pay bumps of nearly 37% for supervisors and 45% for the chair. Both positions last got raises in 2015.

Foust, who’s retiring at the end of December, says higher compensation will encourage candidates to run for supervisor, a position that carries full-time commitments but is treated as a part-time job in Virginia.

As I leave, I know it is critically important that we continue to attract great candidates from all backgrounds and stages of life to serve on the Board. The opportunity to serve is itself very rewarding. However, I believe it is in the best interest of the County that Supervisor compensation be set at a level that will enable anyone to serve regardless of their personal circumstances, and not just those who are wealthy or have other sources of income. I believe that increasing Supervisor pay for the first time in 8 years will advance that goal. I recognize that others have raised concerns and I look forward to the public hearing that will be held on March 21.

“I hope that through my service I have demonstrated that I care very much about the residents and employees of Fairfax County,” he said in a statement to FFXnow.

However, the challenge of affording housing, child care and other living expenses that some supervisors mentioned during their March 7 meeting also poses an obstacle to other county workers, like teachers and police, Fairfax County Federation of Teachers President David Walrod said.

About 1 in 7 Fairfax County employees can’t afford to live where they work, according to a 2021 analysis by The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis (TCI), a Richmond-based think tank. Read More

In front of the Fairfax County Government Center (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) Over the past two years, salaries have ticked up for local elected officials across Northern Virginia, and Fairfax County doesn’t want to get left out.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted 8-2 today (Tuesday) to consider raising the annual pay to somewhere in the $125,000 to $130,000 range for board members and up to $140,000 to $145,000 for the chairman at a public hearing later this month.

Current Board Chair Jeff McKay earns $100,000 per year, while the supervisors earn $95,000 a year.

“I recognize all the challenges we have with compensation,” said Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, who introduced the motion. “We’re all committed to addressing them as best we can, but I just think we should be able to move forward with this and ensure future board are adequately compensated.”

In accordance with Virginia law, the new salaries would go into effect when a new board takes office on Jan. 1, 2024, if they’re approved. The Board of Supervisors last got a pay raise in 2015.

According to data collected by staff, Fairfax County pays its board chair and supervisors more than any other locality in Northern Virginia, where the next highest salaries can be found in Loudoun County. On the low end of the scale, Alexandria City Council members receive just $37,500, and its chair gets $40,000.

Fairfax County’s board supervisor and chair salaries compared to other D.C. area localities (via Fairfax County)

The proposed ranges would bring Fairfax County closer to D.C. and Maryland, where legislators are compensated as full-time employees. In Virginia, even state lawmakers officially work part-time, an approach that some argue is outdated and untenable.

Foust, who is retiring after this year, said he views his position as a full-time job, noting that supervisors participate in regional groups like the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and are “rightly” expected to be responsive around the clock, thanks to the availability of email, texting and social media.

From Foust’s board matter:

A reasonable compensation increase recognizes the growing responsibilities and expectations of this job and will help Fairfax County attract Board members who are able to meet those demands, reflect the age, gender, and racial diversity of our County, and who do not need to rely on outside employment or personal wealth to do so. Compensation should not be a barrier to run for, or serve in, public office.

However, some board members balked at the idea of raising their own salaries at a time when the county is grappling with high real estate taxes and inflation.

While agreeing that the life of a supervisor is busy, Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity lamented that board raises are being considered when the county’s starting pay for police officers is reportedly the lowest in the D.C. region, according to ABC7.

He also noted that the budget for fiscal year 2023, which began on July 1, allocated an additional $1.1 million to cover personnel and operating expenses for the chair and district superviors offices. Read More

Town of Herndon government offices (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The topic of pay for the Herndon Town Council is on the legislative body’s docket again.

After instituting the first pay increase in nearly 15 years for the 2023-2024 term, the council is considering the possibility of reducing pay to previous levels.

The move, pitched by Vice Mayor Clark Hedrick, is in response to fiscal constraints and the current economic climate. The discussion is in the early phases of the legislative process.

“The Town of Herndon is facing continued challenges in maintaining its labor force, which could, in part be addressed through retention bonuses, incentives for prospective employees, higher cost-of-living adjustments, and base pay increases,” meeting materials said.

The memo also flags “significant revenue uncertainty” rooted in the COVID-19 pandemic to the town’s tax revenue streams. Specifically, the proposal cites rising energy costs, record-high inflation and the increase of tax bills across the town.

The proposal would put council pay at $4,000 for council members and $6,000 for the mayor through Jan. 1, 2025. After that, pay would return to $15,000 per year for the mayor and $10,000 per year for council members, according to the proposal.

Hedrick argues that the proposal would not significantly impact the quality of candidates that run for open seats.

“The Council is made of up public servants and recent Town elections have seen no shortage of qualified candidates seeking the office of either mayor or council member,” the memo says.

Before pay increases went into effect this year, the council was among the lowest paid bodies across local jurisdictions — even those that are somewhat smaller than the town’s population of roughly 24,300 people.

Before the salary increases approved last year, council members were paid $4,000 per year — a little over $6,000 below the average of jurisdictions in Virginia. The mayor received $6,000 per year — also $6,000 less than the state average.

In comparison, the City of Fairfax — which has a comparable population of 24,000 — pays $12,000 a year to council members and $13,000 for the mayoral position, according to town materials.

Legislators in the City of Manassas have the highest pay — $15,579 for council members and $20,000 for mayor — although the city’s population stands at more than 41,000.

Hedricks did not return a request for comment from FFXnow. The council is expected to discuss the matter at a meeting tonight (Tuesday).

Mayor Sheila Olem cast the lone dissenting vote against last year’s proposal to increase council pay, calling the plan too big of a raise.


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