Arlington County Board members announced they were considering giving themselves a raise in the coming year, pending input from residents.
Vice Board Chair Libby Garvey broached the topic during the Tuesday night meeting, saying she’s “concerned increasingly about the level of salary” that the county currently offers to Board members, and she intends to ask the public what they think.
Garvey highlighted the dozens of local and regional group meetings that members attend, saying, “I talk to people about how we’re a five-member basketball team with no back-ups so we have to play the entire game all the time.”
Serving on the County Board is intended to be a part-time position, though in practicality the schedules of Board members leave little time for other jobs.
County Board members currently earn $55,147 annually, while the Board Chair earns $60,662. Garvey noted that was lower than the county’s actual salary cap of $57,337 for members and $63,071 for the Chair.
“At some point we’ll publicize very soon some mechanism to collect feedback from our community about raising County Board member salaries,” said Board Chair Christian Dorsey.
Board member Matt de Ferranti supported the idea. “To have a great community you need the ability for everyone to serve and it shouldn’t be that some folks can serve and others cannot,” he said, referencing current salary levels in relation to the local cost of living.
“It kind of boils down to what kind of County Board we should have,” said Garvey.
Garvey said Board members are required to wait to raise their pay caps until at least two members are running for re-election. This means members would have decide by July 1 of this year whether to give themselves a raise, or otherwise wait another four years.
During her presentation Tuesday night, Garvey shared a graph comparing County Board’s salaries with other neighboring jurisdictions.
Her graph stated that D.C. Council members earn the most in the area at $140,161 annually, but recent records indicate council members actually earn $141,282 and are currently allowed to work additional jobs, although recent scandals mean some are reconsidering that provision. The Council Chairman currently earns $210,000 annually.
The second highest pay rate is for Montgomery Council members, who earn between $139,119 and $153,031 a year, according to the most recent 2018 data.
Next is Fairfax County, where Board members earn $95,000, while the Chairman earns $100,000.
Garvey noted that Loudoun County and Alexandria both pay their local legislators less than Arlington.
Alexandria recently bumped City Council member’s pay from $27,500 to $37,500, and Loudoun increased pay two years ago to $50,000 for the Chair of the Board of Supervisors, $45,320 for the Vice Chair, and $41,200 for the other members, with more raises promised in 2020.
“It’s an uncomfortable thing, that we are the only ones who can increase Board member salaries,” said Board member Katie Cristol, who described asking the public about a salary bump as a “slightly awkward consideration.”
“Short of putting this formally to a vote of every single one of our 230,000 bosses, I think at least asking for folks’ input is an excellent idea,” she said.