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Loudoun supervisors green light second phase of pay study for county employees

Loudoun County is reconsidering how it pays its employees, and many of them could end up with a raise under a new pay classification and compensation system, which is being developed in a study commissioned by the Board of Supervisors.

The board last week gave the green light to phase two of its classification and compensation study after phase one of its study found that Loudoun has not kept pace with surrounding jurisdictions in pay for county employees. While the board approved many of the consultant’s recommendations, it fell short of fully endorsing the plan as presented.

The independent consultant had urged the board to adopt a new compensation program that would place the county at 5 percent above the regional average and expand its comparable markets to include Montgomery County, Frederick County and Prince George's County – but a majority of supervisors voted against those specific recommendations.

Instead, every supervisor except county Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) voted to advance a compensation plan that would pay county employees in the range of 95 to 105 percent of the average pay rates of Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax and Prince William counties.

The differences in opinion surrounding the compensation plan sparked a partisan divide.

Loudoun currently tries to pay its employees around 95 percent of comparable regional jurisdictions. But since the recession of 2008, the county has lagged in that goal with the average county employee making only 90 percent of what a similar position might earn in a neighboring jurisdiction. Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax and Prince William pay their employees 90 to 100 percent of the regional average depending on the jurisdiction.

Randall was a staunch defender of the consultant’s recommendations.

The chairwoman tried to add Montgomery County as one of the county’s comparable jurisdictions. She argued the board needed to compare itself to places like Montgomery County, where some Loudoun employees move for better compensation.

“It is about where they work. It really is not about where they live. We’re not losing people to their homes, we’re losing people to other jurisdictions,” she said. “And so, to not consider Montgomery County when we’re losing more people to Montgomery County than we’re losing to two of the competitive jurisdictions that we have in this motion ... we’re losing people to Montgomery County.”

But Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles) argued that the county was correct to use other Virginia jurisdictions for comparison purposes.

“I think it makes sense for us to stick with the Virginia jurisdictions. They have the same forms of government that we have, they have generally the same philosophy that we have, which is not necessarily the case in Maryland,” he said. “It’s not really about to me who lives where and who goes where and all that stuff, it’s simply about which governments and which markets are we most closely resembling in terms of our government, and it’s these Virginia counties,” he added.

Randall’s motion to add Montgomery County as a comparable jurisdiction failed 3-6 on a party line vote with her and Supervisors Koran Saines (D-Sterling) and Kristen Umstattd (D-Leesburg) in support.

The chairwoman also recommended the board start its compensation in the range of 100-105 percent rather than 95-105 percent. She argued that potentially starting some county employees out at 95 percent and others at 100 or more would hurt staff morale.

“We’re going to go into this saying 95 to 105 percent, when 95 is the goal right now but we’re only hitting 86 percent,” she said. But her motion failed.

Supervisors opposed to the chairwoman’s motion argued that staff would likely start all employees off at 100 percent regardless, and that having a wider range to work with, would allow the county to start employees in easy to fill jobs at a lower level than those recruited for more hard-to-fill positions.

“At the end of the day we have to fund all of this, and it’s easy to get up here and talk about this right now because the numbers aren't in our face and the budgets aren't going to be in our face and this is just sort of fantasy baseball,” Letourneau said. “But it’s not going to be that way. So, if we have situations where we’re meeting our market in that we have a lot of employees who want to work for us, we’re keeping them happy, our benefit packages are competitive, we have very little turnover, we have a lot of applications, and that ends up being 2 percent less than 100 percent of Fairfax County … that allows us to go to 102 and 103 percent for those positions that we can’t fill.”

Vice Chairman Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) said he did not think starting at a lower compensation range would significantly affect employee morale.

“I don’t think it sends … any message to staff. Just because someone gets a little bit more than somebody else doesn't send a message that one is less valued than the other,” Buona said. “It depends on your position, it depends on your seniority, it depends on your experience, it depends on your resume, and when you set everything at a minimum of 100 percent, there are some positions that are very easy to fill. To pigeonhole ourselves into just one number at 100 percent all the time just doesn't make sense because it is supply and demand based on the position that we’re advertising for.”

Phase two of the board’s compensation study will include a comprehensive benchmark market analysis of all county jobs; the development of a new, market-based competitive pay plan to include an open-range pay-plan for the general workforce and a “grade and step” pay plan for public safety positions.

Contact the writer at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or on Twitter at @SydneyKashiwagi.


I have never said county employees don’t warrant raises. I think the BOS, unlike the LCSB, tries to responsibly manage compensation of the workforce.  However, the argument that the location of the job doesn’t matter is crazy. Nobody lives in expensive DC and then comuutes to Loudoun. Thus, DC and Arlington and other higher COLA locations must pay more.  Pacer is effectively saying we could include NYC and San Fran to jack up the average. We should be including all the counties south and west (Clarke, Fauquier, etc.) which would bring the average down.

Again, raises appear warranted. 105% will never happen. 100% should only occur if counties to the west are included.

@SPG…wrong again

Read the article again. The study used the costs of LABOR to set the salary schedule. Councilwoman Randall and other party members never mention the costs of living. Those are two separate data points.

The county/council, don’t care where you live. What they care about is how many good employees are being lost because the average cost of labor for LoCo employees vs their counterparts in other county’s 86% of the market average for similar jobs (100%=average). By the county’s own review since 2008 it should be 10% higher. Pay good employee what they’ve earned. It’s simple math, pay employees 14% less than average neighboring counties and you’re not going to attract the best/brightest.

This isn’t a zero sum game folks. You get the government you elect/pay for, see: Tom Marshall. Chirping about income redistribution is white noise and conspiracy theories. LTM mods need to do a better job of weeding out the wingnut InfoWars fanboys who perpetuate logical fallacies as facts.

Sorry to be harsh, but this is county-level government not nuclear physics or open-heart surgery.  None of these people are irreplaceable.

If the current employees don’t like the salary/benefits then they’re welcome to go elsewhere.  There’s no compelling reason to offer anything above the current market rate.

Sick and tired of this regressive attitude that county employees need to be paid less than comparable private sector workers.  County employees should be allowed to be in the middle class. When considering the cost of living in this county, most county employees are barely scraping by in the lower middle or lower class.  I don’t know anyone that works for the county that can live here without a second income for support.  Yes, some administrators are well paid but compared to a VP or CEO in the private sector even top-tier county jobs are way behind.

If you want quality people then you need to compete with not just other counties but with the private sector and federal jobs. At this rate ALL the county employees are going to be commuting from West Virginia.

I wonder if the use of county vehicle to commute between home and work are covered in the compensation package. I often (most everyday) see Loudoun County vehicles heading over the mountain to Clark and Frederick Counties. What a great benefit! Not sure what that would convert to in cash, but I sure wouldn’t mind my employer paying for the gas and wear and tear on my vehicle to commute to and from work.

In another article here, with respect to LCPS salaries, Tom Marshall is quoted as saying, “We provide them with better benefits than most private industry would and we are very competitive with our salaries compared to other jurisdictions.”  He did not seem to require a special study.

So Randall wants to pay Loudoun employees, where it costs less to live, 105% of what the county employees of Fairfax/Arlington/Alexandria are earning.  Hey, it’s not her money.  She was hired to spread your earnings around to all her friends in gov’t.  Why not?

But wait.  What if the counties to the east have to raise salaries to match Loudoun?  Then, Loudoun will have to raise salaries to get back to 105%.  Who cares if the gov’t employees are earning well more than private sector employees and are flooded with applicants seeking a protected job with a large pension, Randall is here to distribute your income, via taxes, to all her voters.

Randall has just about 2 years left on the BOS.  I hope she enjoys all the pomp and circumstance.  She won’t be abusing any office after that.

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