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County Board salaries may reach six-digits over next few years after Saturday vote

Arlington County Board discussing hike in its own salary cap (via Arlington County/YouTube)

Arlington County Board member salaries may top the $100,000 mark for the first time over the next four years, after a vote this weekend.

Board members were paid a $57,648 annual salary as recently as a year ago, though after a series of votes in 2022 and in April the base Board member salary has been increasing — to $89,851 with the new Fiscal Year 2024 budget.

A vote at the end of Saturday’s Board meeting will provide the Board flexibility to further raise its salary, as soon as next year.

The every-four-year vote sets a cap for Board member pay. The unanimous vote on Saturday brings the cap to $119,833 for Board members and $125,460 for the Board chair, a position that rotates annually.

The cap was recommended by county staff, calculated by taking this year’s average median income for Arlington and raising it 3% annually through 2027.

County Board salary pay cap raise (via Arlington County)

Board members spoke in favor of setting the Board salary at a rate that would allow members to live in pricy Arlington without existing wealth or the support of a higher-earning spouse.

“There ought to be at least some modicum of remuneration for the Board work that can attract people who can afford to do these jobs,” Board Vice-Chair Libby Garvey said prior to the vote. “Being at the AMI for a single person is a close approximation.”

Garvey said the new cap is “reasonable” and, noting that no members of the public stuck around until mid-afternoon to speak about the agenda item, “we don’t seem to have a lot of controversy about it.”

While service on the County Board has historically been considered to be a part-time position, member Matt de Ferranti argued that it’s now essentially a full-time position given its various civic and legislative responsibilities.

“This is not a part-time job, and whatever your convictions are politically, it should still not be a part-time job in my opinion,” de Ferranti said. “We need a situation where everyone who has the skills and wants to serve, financially can be able to make it work.”

“I think it’s an important step for governance and the right thing to do,” he added, “so that it’s not just folks who have means who can serve on this Board, which is the history of Virginia and in part the history of Arlington.”

Katie Cristol, who previously expressed reservations about raising her own pay in 2022, expressed some similar misgivings this time around, noting that Board members will be paid around the same as or more then elected Board members of larger jurisdictions like Loudoun County or Prince William County.

Board Chair Christian Dorsey countered that other jurisdictions have district-based representation, whereas Arlington County Board members are elected at-large and thus represent more people on a per-capita basis.

Even if the Board later hikes its salary up to the cap — the weekend’s vote does not increase pay by itself, it only establishes the maximum salary that the Board can set over the next four years — it will still be lower than the Board member salaries in neighboring Fairfax County, population 1.1 million

“We’re not the highest and we’re not the lowest, and that’s probably a safe space for us to be,” Dorsey said before adjourning the meeting.

Local elected official salary comparison chart (via Arlington County)

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