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.

Back in mid-March, no one could have fully predicted just how long or extensive the lockdown for COVID-19 would be.

Over the past three months, the County Board moved the most essential functions of governing to online platforms. Essential services and public safety continued largely without interruption. A modified budget moved through a revamped public comment process, though not without a couple blips. For example, the county’s pay plan set to take effect on July 1st still says County Board members will receive a raise. There has been no public announcement on how they will deliver the promised fix to prevent the raise from taking effect.

On June 9, the chairs of 25 county advisory groups wrote to the County Board and raised concerns that these avenues for public input were unnecessarily lying dormant. Despite plenty of online options, meetings were not happening at all. It was not until May that county officials unveiled a plan to determine how staff and other resources would be allocated as well as how meetings would be prioritized. Based on the county guidance, many groups may effectively be shelved for the remainder of the year.

The defenses of the County Board on Saturday rang a little hollow to the thousands of county residents who have been successfully teleworking for the past 90 days. Most of us participate in multiple video conferences every week — often multiple times on the same day. Meetings that used to take place in person simply moved online. Screen sharing is enabled. “Rules of the road” for recognition to speak are quickly developed. It has changed the way we exchange information.

Surely Arlington officials could do better than “we’re working on it” by now.

Restricting public input in this way is one concerning trend. On today’s County Board agenda is a report on the County Auditor’s work plan that should also raise some eyebrows.

For fiscal year 2021, the County Auditor is proposing new audits into COVID-19 cost reimbursement, non-profit funding allocations, housing grants, and risk management. These are all fine areas to look into for a robust audit function.

Unfortunately, the County Board never fully embraced the auditor’s role to identify waste and efficiencies on behalf of the Arlington taxpayer. They have not dedicated significant staff resources to evaluate a $1.5 billion budget on a regular basis. As a result, there have been just a handful of audits produced thus far.

According to the draft work plan for the coming year, the Auditor is suggesting they stop the audit of economic development incentives — presumably without a report. The audit was supposed to be done by the end of last year and feature a look into the taxpayer-subsidized Amazon deal. It was taking the place of a jettisoned audit of business improvement district activities which should have been done as well. If no audit is ever produced on the Amazon deal, it represents a disturbing loss of promised transparency. And it is being quietly jettisoned during this time of a pandemic and civil unrest.

The work plan is also proposing that an audit of real estate assessments and appeals be postponed until some unknown date in the future. The message from the County Board appears to be: taxpayers will just have to wait on accountability if they get it at all.

Surely the County Board can do better.

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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The Right Note is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

“Today may we all rally to the side of justice for the victims, to the side of using peaceful protests to effect change, and to stand against those who would use this tragedy as an excuse for violence, destruction and further division.”

Yesterday in the Progressive Voice, Delegate Rip Sullivan opined on the “virtues” of voting by mail. For Sullivan, first it was gerrymandering that made our elections unfair. Then it was having to show a government issued ID, free if you need it, to prove you were who you say you were.

Now voting in person is on his radar to be eliminated. What will it be next? Maybe voting by mail will be too hard because it requires someone to walk to the mailbox, so we should let them vote with two clicks on a smartphone?

We should ask ourselves if we want to make it harder and harder to identify who is actually casting the votes in elections?

In California, it is legal for someone to submit your ballot for you. Volunteers can pick up hundreds of ballots and drop them off with local election offices with no accountability in between. You may have read about this, it is known as ballot harvesting. In an April story, one Democrat strategist even suggested they would come and take ballots  out of mailboxes.

What would Delegate Sullivan say about that? Where would he draw the line?

For those with health concerns about voting in the Arlington County Board special election in July or the general election in November, our absentee voting system will accommodate you. Right now you can vote in person in advance, or you can vote by requesting an absentee ballot by mail. In the fall, you will not even need to provide a reason at all. You can just vote early because you feel like it.

Delegate Sullivan suggests he supports moving to all mail-in voting permanently. However, mailing a ballot to every registered voter on a list is problematic in an of itself. Voter registration lists, like any mailing list, are always out-of-date. People move, and sadly, people die. We would unnecessarily be opening ourselves up to fraud when it is already relatively easy to vote now.

Voting is both a right and a privilege. In fact it is one of the most sacred rights we have in this country. At the same time, you are not required to participate. Many people do not vote because they feel like they have no real choice, or that they feel like politicians on both sides have failed them. That is their right too.

But, your elected officials have an obligation to make it both accessible and secure for all those who do chose to participate. It should be accessible to those who are eligible to vote and secure to make sure those votes are not watered down by anyone who wishes to commit fraud.

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

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The Right Note is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

There is a special election to fill the seat on the County Board now vacant because of the tragic death of Erik Gutshall. While the County Board is attempting to push the date for the election all the way to November, voters are likely to head to the polls July 7 or vote absentee in advance of that day.

Over the next seven weeks, voters will be able to consider the three candidates running for the position. Here are three big picture questions these candidates should be answering:

  1. Will you challenge the status quo?

Now more than ever, we should not accept the idea that we can keep doing things the way we  have done them in the past. The Board recognized this on an emergency basis as they passed a revised budget April 30th. However, they should use this time to ask themselves what they can do differently in the future. Every program, line item, rule and regulation should be evaluated to help us recover in the short term and make us stronger over time.

  1. Will you work to increase the levels of transparency and accountability provided by Arlington to its residents?

Two weeks ago, I noted a County Board pay raise mistakenly included in the pay plan approved by the Arlington County Board. When it was brought to their attention, they sprang into action to say it was not supposed to be there and would be fixed. Yet, the County Board met on Saturday and is meeting again today, and none of the agenda items listed thus far fix the pay plan to take back the raise. The Board Members who promised this would be fixed need to live up to their word and tell us how they plan to fix it before it takes effect on July 1st.

Also over the last two weeks, the County Board joined with other Northern Virginia jurisdictions to say “no” to reopening Arlington for business last Friday. The Board listed five metrics they were looking at for reopening. Last Friday during their virtual town hall meeting, they also regularly referenced the five metrics. Yet, nowhere on the County Board site can you view a dashboard which discloses how close, or far away, we are from meeting them.

While our ties to the federal government make our community more recession-resistant than most, our economy is still strained and our residents are losing jobs by the day. “Just trust us” should not be acceptable for such a huge decision, particularly in this unprecedented time of crisis.

  1. Will you commit to fiscal discipline as we recover from these challenging times?

Keeping the tax rate as low as possible is a key component for economic recovery. Beyond the costs on housing for our residents, many of whom have lost a job or could in the future, we must keep downward pressure on rents for our employers as well. It means designating 100% of any closeout funds to this purpose for the foreseeable future. It means the Board must also identify and fund only the most essential things in the budget for the next year or two to reduce the need for taxpayer revenue. And it certainly means a delay on the aforementioned pay raise for the Board.

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

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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.

Last Thursday as I tuned into the County Board’s special meeting to pass the Fiscal Year 2021 budget, I began clicking on the links to the Board reports accompanying the agenda. One of the measures to be voted on was the Pay Plan to take effect July 1. Knowing the Board had originally planned a $10,000 pay raise for themselves, I searched the document to ensure the raise had been scrapped.

In less than 60 seconds, I located County Board pay on page 28. It called for a 3.5% pay raise. I double checked my figures with several Board watchers and online sources to make sure I had it right. Board Members are currently paid $55,147, and the Chair $60,662, and the Pay Plan was set to raise that pay to $57,077 and $62,785.

After no County Board member mentioned the pay raise during the debate on the Pay Plan, I began writing a column giving the County Board a big Thumbs Down on the raise and opining as to why the Board may have been trying to sweep it under the rug. Following submission of my column, ARLnow’s editor informed me that, during a fact check, county officials disputed whether a raise had been approved.

After some back and forth, including a call between me and county staff, I have to take the County Board at their word that they did not authorize any pay raise to be included in the Pay Plan. If it was in the plan, I was informed that there was no money in the budget for it, and it would be fixed.

I was left to wonder though, out of four County Board members it seems like not a single one read the Pay Plan closely enough to notice the pay raise was there. Do we think John Vihstadt would have missed this if he were still on the Board?

You might also wonder, if no one read the Pay Plan closely enough to notice the increase, are there mistakes in the items that were approved on last week’s agenda that will also have to be fixed?

Thumbs Down to all four County Board Members who did not notice the pay raise in the Pay Plan before they voted to approve it last Thursday.

Thumbs Down to County Manager Mark Schwartz for not ensuring the County Board instructions were reflected in the Pay Plan that was approved.a

Thumbs Up to ARLnow for starting the dialogue with county officials, and for what I’m sure will be a follow up to make sure the Board works to undo the raise.

Switching gears, I did want to offer a Thumbs Up to Governor Northam for allowing non-essential medical care to move forward again. With the COVID-19 curve long flattened and no longer threatening to overwhelm our health care system, it was past time to ensure people are receiving the deferred health care they need. It also ensures health care providers, particularly in more remote parts of Virginia, are able to receive the income they need to stay open and keep providing these essential services into the future.

While Governor Northam is moving slowly to reopen Virginia and still has not released the details of his larger plan for our overall economic health and well being, at least his administration retreated from the notion that a first phase could last two years. So a final thumbs up for hope that we can recover, and soon.

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

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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.

Governor Northam has a duty as we move forward to balance this public health emergency with the substantial economic damage being done right now in order to promote the overall health of our Commonwealth. Getting to the other side of this crisis is a true test of leadership for the governor and the Democrats in charge of the General Assembly.

According to modeling, which admittedly has produced projections that regularly overstate the impact of COVID-19 in Virginia when compared to actual data, Virginia is just two days from peak resource use. Daily case increases have plateaued even with increased testing. More people have been discharged from the hospital than are currently being treated. There is no shortage of hospital beds or ventilator capacity. And Virginia’s share of national cases has remained constant. All of this means, what we have done is working in terms of slowing the spread of this coronavirus.

At this point, Governor Northam has not put forward his plan for how Virginia can reopen safely. In the absence of a plan from the governor thus far, here are some general guidelines they could follow:

Recognize Regional Realities. There are areas of the Commonwealth with few if any cases. Those areas can be reopened sooner and in a less restrictive way than the more urban and suburban areas which have seen a higher number of cases. One thing is certain, there are Virginians in rural and economically disadvantaged areas who can ill-afford for employers there to close permanently.

Public Health Response. What protocols can we put in place in areas with the worst outbreaks to do contact tracing or ramp up testing quickly if another surge in cases occurs?

Reasonable Temporary Regulations. Virginia businesses can implement common sense regulations for the next few months or even a year to keep workers safe. Split shifts. Closing common areas. Taking temperatures at the door. Rotating office employees with telework. Spacing in public spaces like movie theaters, mass transit, and restaurants when those can safely reopen.

Return of Restricted Health Care Services. Many medical procedures and tests were halted in the name of preparing for a surge in the need for hospital beds and personal protective equipment. It has delayed health care services to people who need them and put a tremendous financial strain on hospitals, clinics, physicians and even dental practices. It is time to determine how best to lift these restrictions.

Protect Vulnerable Populations. For example, the biggest outbreaks have been in long term care facilities. Restrictions can be put in place to recognize this threat.

Announce Benchmarks for a Return to Normal. The governor should announce what specific data points are necessary to achieve in order for us to move beyond temporary restrictions to the next stages of reopening. By doing so, he can also be held accountable for the progress.

Virginia can get past this crisis. We need Governor Northam to step up to the plate with the plan to help us do it.

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

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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.

We are all feeling the effects of this extended mandatory coronavirus isolation.

It may be as simple as a canceled birthday party or missing the senior year of a spring high school sport. Some may have lost a job or fear losing a job. You or someone you know may be sick. Or you may have experienced the tragic loss of life of someone close to you from COVID-19.

Our elected leaders here in Arlington are dealing with all of the practical effects of governing through uncertainty. They are tackling the “must do” items that come with an unprecedented public health emergency.

Now we are seeing some encouraging signs that mitigation is working and the rate of spread is slowing, even with ramped-up testing. Over the past week, the University of Washington model dramatically reduced the time for Virginia to reach peak hospital usage from May 17 to April 20.

In other words, we may be seeing some of the first signs of light at the end of the tunnel. This reminds us that we need our leaders to find a path forward after the crisis has lifted.

Our government structure in America is set up to make local government the most important in assessing and addressing the immediate needs of the people it serves. While it may be awhile before we are fully back to normal, hopefully our local leaders are keeping one eye on what’s next.

We are in the middle of an interrupted annual budget season in Arlington. Yesterday, County Manager Mark Schwartz presented a revised budget to the County Board that would reportedly reduce spending by $56 million. Here are five suggestions as they continue to make plans for moving forward past this crisis.

Plan for the best case scenario first. If we are able to begin to resume normalcy on May 1 or May 15 or June 1, then what would that look like in Arlington?

  1. Scrub the county budget again to remove any more “nice to have” items that can wait for one, two or even five years. Arlingtonians have come to appreciate the essentials in life over the past three weeks, we are ok if the government does the same.
  2. Give individuals and businesses a substantial property tax rate cut to help our local economy get back on its feet faster. A rate cut of ten cents for one year would make a real difference.
  3. Dip into the rainy day funds to pay for things we need now. We set this money aside for an emergency. A once-in-a-century pandemic should qualify.
  4. Put forward a plan to bring down our long term debt to revenue ratio by 10 to 20 percent, so that we have some breathing room to protect our bond rating moving forward.

Finally, please take a positive and hopeful approach as you plan. Do not waste time pointing fingers or attempting to assign political blame in these uncertain times. Just get the job done for the people you serve.

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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The Right Note is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

We are 10 days into an initial 15-day nationwide effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Lives have tragically been lost. Jobs that seemed secure are now gone. Uncertainty surrounds every decision being made by individuals, families, businesses and our elected leaders. Decisions are being made daily, even hourly that in some cases drastically impact our lives.

Here in Arlington, our county leaders declared a state of emergency to maximize social distancing, even closing our parks. Closed schools are still serving school lunches and breakfasts to kids who rely on them. Local leaders worked together with Virginia Hospital Center to stand up a drive-through testing site.

County Manager Mark Schwartz announced last weekend he would come back to the County Board with a revised annual budget. Certainly, county officials are expecting to lose the revenue cushion that had lead Chair Libby Garvey to speculate the Board would cut the tax rate.

At the same time, the fiscal year does not begin until July 1, which hopefully will be after we have turned the corner on coronavirus. The Board will also have access to closeout funds later in the year to bridge the gap. And, for years Arlington has banked large emergency reserves that we can tap into if necessary. In other words, we should be able to get through this without taking drastic measures.

Sadly, yesterday Governor Northam announced an end to the school year. In Arlington, the Governor turned a 30-day school shutdown into a 100-day shutdown. By contrast, the Governor’s order only required non-essential businesses to close for the next 30 days.

It is not entirely clear why the Governor did not wait until mid-April to make this long-term school decision when he would have had more information available to him. However, there will be plenty of time for after-action reports, public criticism and public praise in the weeks and months after we get through this.

In the meantime, as we make our way through this unprecedented national crisis, may we all take a measured response to the actions and decisions of our leaders. We have to trust that every elected official is trying to both protect public health, particularly for the most vulnerable of our people, and guard against the potential of an economic collapse.

Arlingtonians can stay up to date on all of the latest news and information at the county’s website. Not only does it include announcements about what the county is doing in response to COVID-19, it also outlines resources to meet community needs during this difficult time.

Right now, if you have the means, please consider helping your neighbors. You can check in with local charitable organizations or reach out directly to those who may be in need. It certainly is a cliche, but we will come out of this stronger if we continue to remember that we are all in this together.

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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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.

Last fall, Virginia voters gave Democrats total control of all levers of power in Richmond.

Delegate Alfonso Lopez had bragged that they could complete the work of a lifetime in “two afternoons.” It turns out that it took the new majority a little longer than that to tackle their agenda. In fact they had to take the unusual step of extending their session by a day to get their work done.

So the questions is, did they fulfill their work of a lifetime?

Redistricting was a top platform issue for the party. While some of us still hold the opinion that the redistricting reform measure will not take politics out of the every 10-year line-drawing process, it finally passed the Virginia General Assembly at the last minute and heads to voters in the fall. It should be noted that it passed despite overwhelming opposition from Democrats in the House of Delegates. Only nine of the 55 Democrats in the body voted for it despite running on the issue over the past several election cycles.

Two questions remain. First, will the Democrats who tried to stop redistricting reform, presumably in order to draw districts they like more, actively oppose it when it reaches the ballot in November? The likely answer here is no.

The other question is whether this is one of those issues voters say they care about when responding to public pollsters but does not actually move their votes when choosing a candidate? I suspect that while the voters are likely to approve the change this November, that this issue moves very few votes when it comes to candidates. But, we will find out in 2021 when the Democrats flip-floppers in the House face re-election.

House Democrats did unite around other items on their agenda. They removed the requirement to provide identification in order to vote while also voting to provide driving cards to undocumented immigrants. They approved casino and sports betting in order to raise revenue for new spending priorities. They increased the gas tax and the minimum wage. They removed restrictions on abortion procedures including requirements that doctors provide the procedures. They passed new restrictions on buying firearms.

They also passed a bill that is the first step toward unraveling Virginia’s status as a right to work state. The new collective bargaining law will allow local governments to engage in the practice with their employees. According to the blog, Blue Virginia, Katie Cristol and Matt de Ferranti support the effort. So, it will be interesting to see if, or when, the County Board votes to do so here.

Ultimately, the voters decide these questions. And, Virginia Democrats now have a record to defend.

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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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.

Last week Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz unveiled the proposed budget for the next fiscal year. The budget includes a record $550 million for Arlington Public Schools. It also includes raises for all Arlington County staff, including larger raises for public safety employees. And it grants more paid family leave as well as increases dependent care benefits.

The budget also includes the first of what is proposed to be three annual, and substantial, pay increases for County Board members. The goal is to increase the Board’s pay from about $57,000 to $90,000 by fiscal year 2023.

Last June the Board voted to raise the pay cap to that level, but was careful to remind us at the time that the vote did not actually increase their salaries. They suggested that just because they raised the cap, they may not raise their salaries all the way to the new cap.

While they are not raising the salaries to the new cap all at once, the Board is using the annual budget process to increase their pay without taking a separate vote on it. While the annual budget move was widely expected at the time, it is disappointing that the Board does not have the political courage to go on the record with an up or down vote on the raise itself.

Tonight, the County Board will vote on what tax rates to advertise in the lead up to an April 2nd public hearing. County Manager Schwartz suggested no tax rate increase. In the past, however, the Board has often advertised a higher rate than the County Manager’s proposal. While some Board Members would welcome more revenue to spend, advertising a higher rate is often done in the name of “flexibility.”

After increasing the tax rate by two cents last year and increasing spending by more than 6%, the Board may not even feint at going for more this time around. Tax revenue is already projected to be up by 4.6% in the Manager’s proposal. The average homeowner will already see their tax bill go up by 4.3%, or about $400 if you own the typical single-family home.

And we know that based on past practice of underestimating revenue, that revenue will almost certainly climb by as much as 2% higher than the current projection. When paired with the fact that the county regularly does not spend all it budgets, tens of millions of dollars will available to spend again this year in the annual closeout process. You can read more about it here or here or here.

While the Board has been engaging in the practices of carrying over a larger portion of these closeout funds to offset the next year’s spending, they should consider giving taxpayers a break on the front end. Tonight the Board should advertise a rate decrease of the two cents they charged us last year. If they cannot find just $200 of tax relief for the taxpayers in the budget, then they should put their plans to raise their own pay by more than $30,000 over the next three years back on the shelf.

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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The Right Note is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

Thumbs down…

To Delegate Hope’s bill proposing instant run-off voting. This is an attempt to prevent third party candidates from having any real influence on an election. In Arlington that would often mean a Green Party candidate siphoning off votes from Democrats. If a Democrat in Arlington is incapable of achieving a plurality of the vote, maybe it should be accepted as a way that the public is telling you they want a change in leadership.

To the General Assembly Democrats who are dragging their feet on redistricting reform. When faced with the possibility of drawing their own preferred maps in 2021, the new Democrat majority in Richmond pumped the brakes on the bill that passed the House of Delegates on a bipartisan 83-15 vote last year. While there are many (myself included) who do not think changing who draws the lines will make it any fairer or less controversial, the Democrats should rightly be accused of rank hypocrisy if they fail to accomplish this key plank in their platform.

To Christian Dorsey for resigning the WMATA Board rather than paying back the $10,000 union contribution he failed to properly report. Dorsey claims he could not pay it back yet because he has had trouble raising money. As a reminder, Dorsey was the Chairman of the Board as a member of the dominant political party in Arlington but only raised a little over $41,000 for the year. A Democrat who has trouble raising money in Arlington in the year they are up for re-election can only be explained as being unwilling to put in the work.

To the County Board for adding a $200 fine to certain speeding tickets. Someone ticketed for going 30 miles-per-hour in a 25 zone now could face a $296 ticket, which is almost certainly going to strike ticket recipients as excessive.

And finally, two thumbs down for the Arlington School Board. First, for voting to start school a week earlier without a majority of staff, students, or parents thinking it is a good idea. Second, for announcing they would wall off their superintendent search from the public. Community input is now off the table until the Board emerges with their choice. Both of these moves fall into the category of “just because you can do something, does not mean that you should.”

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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The Right Note is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

The School Board this week unveiled a long-anticipated proposal to start the school year before Labor Day this August.

The change comes after the General Assembly granted more flexibility for school districts last year, and it also comes despite low public support. In fact, according to the APS survey just 25% of parents, 24% of students and 39% of staff like the move.

All indications point to this being the first stop toward starting two weeks before Labor Day next year. For parents who liked to take advantage of late season summer rates for vacations, those days will soon be gone.

The reasons given for starting earlier center around allowing a few more days to prepare for exams that take place in the Spring. It seems little serious consideration was given to eliminating a handful of in service days or early release days instead.

It would be good for the School Board to produce a study that demonstrates an earlier start date produces better scores. It would also be good to see a plan by APS officials on how they will track student achievement the first year to see if the change really matters.

Many researchers have suggested that one way to improve student performance is to start school later in the day for middle and high school students. Getting more sleep not only helps school performance, but it makes adolescents healthier overall and less likely to engage in risky behaviors. While science may back up the idea of starting these schools at 9 a.m., it is unlikely that APS would seriously pursue such a plan.

Speaking of elected officials doing things just because they can, the County Board last weekend approved big raises for their most senior employees. County Manager Mark Schwartz is now making a salary of $282,489, a 4.5% raise, and County Attorney Stephen MacIsaac will receive $261,933, a 3.5% raise.

Up next for the County Board is whether they will raise their own pay and by how much. Last June, the Board voted to cap salaries at $89,851 for Members and $95,734 for the Chair effective January 1. If they opt to go to the maximum this year, it would represent a 63% increase in pay.

The Board has not said when it would pass a pay raise. They have indicated this year’s budget may pass without a tax rate increase in April. This decision would not be a heavy lift as property assessments are up 4.6% over last year. The assessment increase should present an opportunity for the Board to lower the tax rate, but no property owners I have talked to are holding their breath expecting that to happen.

Whatever the Board ultimately does with their own pay, they should hold a straight up or down vote on it before they pass a budget that will almost certainly have increased taxes on homeowners by more than 9% over the past two years. The Board should not bury a pay raise in the annual budget or wait till June to pass it as they did with the pay cap.

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