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The Right Note: Time for a Pay Raise?

by Mark Kelly January 24, 2019 at 3:45 pm 0

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

This week the Sun Gazette reported on the question of whether the County Board would take advantage of the once in four years opportunity to raise their pay without a public hearing. Chairman Dorsey is quoted as saying, “I don’t actually think it’s appropriate this year.”

Libby Garvey, who has openly advocated moving toward a full-time salary for Board Members in the range of $100,000, offered a slight glimmer of hope by characterizing it as “unlikely.”

Certainly, a raise in the range of 60 percent that Garvey recommends is probably not in order. Yet, while many in the community have strong feelings about County Board members receiving any pay raises at all, a modest once every four year raise, is probably not out of order either.

Unfortunately, through a combination of rhetoric and relatively unchecked spending increases, the Board has left itself in a tough spot. Year after year, the Board claims they are making tough budget choices and cuts. It is hard to advocate for a pay raise when times are supposedly tough.

At the same time, the actual bias toward ever-growing spending has also caused the Board to find itself on the doorstep of passing a hefty property tax rate increase on top of increasing assessments to pay for everything they want to do. It is hard to advocate for a pay raise when you are raising everyone’s tax rates to fund it.

So Garvey and Dorsey are right, a pay raise is unlikely at best.

Dorsey did something interesting for someone on the ballot this year. He went on to call into question the role of the County Board. Are they getting too far into the weeds and doing things best left to County staff? Dorsey even pondered out loud, “An individual board member exceeding his responsibility is not helpful.”

Dorsey’s question about how much a County Board should work in a part-time job is not without merit from an intellectual perspective. However, it may not be a smart political statement to say something along the lines of I may not want to work as hard as the community expects me to, and when one of my colleagues works a lot harder, it makes the rest of us look bad.

If Dorsey draws a challenger this year, expect to hear a lot about his desire to work less. One way to ensure he does not have to is to give someone else the job.

Mark Kelly is a 19-year Arlington resident, former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

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