After weeks of discussion, Loudoun supervisors agreed Thursday night on a 62 percent raise for the next Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission effective 2020.
The proposal passed 5-4 with supervisors Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn), Suzanne Volpe (R-Algonkian), Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin) and Kristen Umstattd (D-Leesburg) opposed.
Under the new pay rate, members of the next Board of Supervisors, excluding the chair and vice chair, will be paid $66,826 in 2020, which is up from the current $41,200. The vice chair will be paid $73,363, up from $45,320, and the chair will make $81,100, up from $50,000. Supervisors will then receive a 2 percent salary increase for three years.
The new pay system also raises the salaries for members of the Planning Commission from $21,315 to $25,000, the chair of the commission from $22,334 to $30,000, and the vice chair from $21,315 to $27,500.
The last time the Board of Supervisors had their salaries increased was in 2008. Under Virginia code, the board cannot increase its compensation during the current term or put the proposal up for a vote via referendum.
Leading up to Thursday's meeting, the proposal pitched by first-term Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) and second-term Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles) stirred contentious debate among supervisors and drew wide criticism from Loudoun residents on social media.
Ahead of the final vote on the raise, Vice Chairman Buona -- one of the strongest opponents of the raise -- attempted to offer an amendment to lower the amount of the pay bump.
Buona instead pitched raising the board's current salaries of $41,200 to $50,000; the chair's from $50,000 to $60,600; and the vice chair's from $45,320 to $55,000, followed by a 2 percent increase over the next three years of their terms afterwards.
He said his proposal was slightly higher than the consumer price index and also matched the raise county staff received from 2008 to 2018.
Buona's motion ultimately failed 2-6-1, with Buona and Umstattd voting in favor and Volpe abstaining.
"I think this is a reasonable proposal," Buona said. "I think that If you're not willing to support the proposal you're sending a message that we're more important than [county] staff."
Supervisor Letourneau argued board members are different than county staff. He pointed out that supervisors do not always qualify for certain benefits, programs and automatic pay increases that county staff do.
"The statement was made that the board shouldn't treat itself differently, but the board is by code and by practice very different from the rest of staff in ways that are both positive and negative to the board," Letourneau said. " " When the [county] budget increases and when the population increases, then the workload increases but it's the same number of people."
For weeks supervisors in favor of the raise like Chairwoman Randall had made the case that the raise would remove financial barriers to access the role of elected official, widening the pool of applicants for future boards.
"I have had many many people say the words to me, 'I thought about running for office but I realize I couldn't afford it.'" she said. "I've had that over and over and over again from both sides of the political aisle " what message are we giving to people?"
Randall said she agreed the proposal came off as "bad optics," but argued the job of supervisor in Loudoun County had changed dramatically since 2008.
Supervisor Higgins said that board members who believed the job of supervisor came with more responsibilities than it did in 2008 did not need a raise for themselves, but needed to raise their district budget for their staff aides.
"[The raise] isn't going to change anything because people aren't going to give up their careers for a four-year stint," Higgins said. "So if you really want to get more time, when we get to the budget discussions let's talk about expanding our money that we have in our offices."
Last summer, the board approved a $240,000 increase for eight of their district budgets. Buona was one of three supervisors to reject that budget increase. He also declined to take any of the money for his office.
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