Arlington, VA

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.

If you are having trouble scrubbing the family budget enough to help pay for the rising tax rates here in Arlington, try this solution: just raise your salary.

That is apparently what the Arlington County Board plans to do this month.

This is not just any old cost-of-living adjustment mind you, but a raise that could be more than 40%. Libby Garvey speculated the pay could rise from around $57,000 to $82,000.

To put $25,000 into perspective, it would take this year’s tax increase on roughly 60 average homeowners to fund one Board Member’s pay raise. It would take more than 300 homeowners to fund the raises for the entire Board.

One could reasonably argue that from time to time the County Board should adjust its pay upward to reflect the hours they work and inflation. This post is not necessarily about what is reasonable, though $25,000 seems clearly beyond reasonable for what is supposed to be a part-time Board. Instead, it addresses the dishonesty of the arguments from our elected officials and the timing of the vote.

Let’s go back all the way to January. That is when Arlington County Board Chairman Christian Dorsey said about a pay raise, “I don’t actually think it’s appropriate this year.” The comments came in the context of the so-called “tight budget times” that the Board claimed necessitated a 5% tax increase on homeowners for 2019.

Dorsey’s words were clearly designed to make Arlingtonians think he and the Board wouldn’t dream of considering a raise as they were asking taxpayers to fork over more of their hard-earned money to the five spendthrifts. And the Board proceeded to go through the annual budget process without discussing a pay raise as part of that package.

It is clear what Chairman Dorsey actually meant was, the right time to vote on a pay raise is after the deadline for candidates to get on the November ballot. Pushing the pay raise consideration till late June was presumably aimed at avoiding the looming threat of a John Vihstadt run.

The willingness to even consider the pay raise proves that any claim that Arlington is struggling with “tight budget times” is a complete and total sham. If the 6.3% budget increase passed in April didn’t convince you, the County Board’s willingness to turn around and vote themselves a pay raise as high as 44% should.

If the Board wanted a pay raise, the honest, accountable and transparent thing to do would have been to put it in the annual budget. Let the public weigh in on balancing priorities between a pay raise for the Board and cuts to arts funding, transportation needs or additional school spending.

The County Board is emboldened. They clearly believe you have written them a blank check to do absolutely anything they want with no electoral consequences.

Chairman Dorsey should go back and revisit his own words. It is not the right time to consider a massive pay raise. The Chairman should publicly commit not to put it on the June agenda. Otherwise, taxpayers may need to think about rallying around a challenger to defeat him.

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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