The COVID-19 health pandemic and resulting economic downturn have snagged another victim – big pay raises for Arlington County Board members.
Raises totaling more than $50,000 spread across the five board positions, which were included in County Manager Mark Schwartz’s pre-virus budget proposal in February, have been red-lined out of the revised budget package that is set for approval on April 30.
Schwartz’s proposed fiscal 2021 budget had teed up the phasing in, over a three-year period, salary hikes of potentially more than $30,000 a year for what, until now, officially have been classified as part-time positions. But with county-government staff seeing their raises stripped out of the new budget plan, County Board members probably have no choice but to eliminate their own raises, too.
County Board members last June set the stage for the pay increases (without actually enacting them) by setting a maximum pay rate for the positions of $89,951 for members, $95,735 for the board chairman. The previous salary cap was $57,337 and $63,071, respectively.
By most accounts, the push for higher pay emanated from board member (and 2020 chairman) Libby Garvey. A year ago, the then-board chairman, Christian Dorsey, first said he had no desire to take up the matter in 2019, then reversed course. (Shortly after winning re-election last November, Dorsey acknowledged significant personal financial woes.)
From its founding in the 1930s until the 1990s, County Board service was essentially an act of civic altruism – pay was low (many had working spouses), hours were long and opportunity for political advancement was limited. In the past two decades, however, board members added accoutrements, from individual staff support to benefits akin to full-time government employees.