Isle of Wight supervisors mull pay raise to take effect in 2024

Published 4:09 pm Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Isle of Wight County supervisors are considering increasing their own pay, effective in 2024.

A 1998 state law set a maximum $7,000 salary for supervisors of counties with 25,000 to 49,999 residents, but it allows raises of up to 5% per year to account for inflation.

Isle of Wight County, which had an estimated population of 39,278 as of 2021 according to census data, adopted an ordinance in 2008 raising the minimum 5% to $11,402.26.

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According to County Attorney Bobby Jones, the salary was raised again at some point during the past 15 years by roughly 3% to the current $11,744.

Supervisor Dick Grice, at the supervisors’ Feb. 2 meeting, proposed an 8.9% raise to $12,800.

Since the amount would exceed the 5% allowed under the 1998 law, the supervisors would need to use an alternate process outlined in a state law that was last revised in 2022, Jones said.

Rather than build the raise into the county’s budget and have it take effect July 1 at the start of the next fiscal year, the 2022 process mandates that the supervisors hold a public hearing and vote prior to July 1, with the raises taking effect Jan. 1 following a year where at least two board of supervisors seats, or 40% of its membership, are up for election.

Three of Isle of Wight’s five seats are up for election this year, meaning, if approved, the proposed raise would take effect at the start of 2024.

Grice’s seat is among the three available, though the retired businessman has said he plans to step down at the Dec. 31 end of his current term. As such, he would not be a recipient of the raise he’s proposed.

Grice initially proposed a 6.4% raise to $12,500, contending the amount would be in line with the 8.7% increase Social Security recipients are to receive this year, and suggested tying any future raises to Social Security increases.

But according to Jones, by using the 2022 method rather than the 1998 method for voting on the proposed raises, the supervisors would lose the ability to build increases of up to 5% into the county’s budget each year.

If Grice’s proposal secures a majority vote, the next time board members could give themselves another raise would be 2025, when Supervisors Rudolph Jefferson and Don Rosie will be up for reelection. Hearing this, Grice upped his ask to $12,800.

Under the 2008 ordinance, the board’s chairman and vice chairman receive an additional $1,800 and $1,200, respectively. Were this provision to remain under Grice’s proposal, the chairman would receive $14,600 and the vice chairman, $14,000.

Chairman William McCarty, who’s among the three members up for reelection this year, said when he first ran for his seat in 2015, he didn’t know there was any salary for the position.

Despite the number of regional meetings board members must attend, and the associated mileage on their vehicles, “I’ve never heard one complaint,” McCarty said of his colleagues on the board.

Vice Chairman Joel Acree, who’s also up for reelection, said he personally doesn’t need the salary increase. But it could incentivize retirees on fixed incomes, who might otherwise not consider running for office, to afford the commitments expected of board members, he contended.

“That money might make the difference,” Acree said.

Jefferson proposed tying board member raises to whatever percentage they vote to give county employees in Isle of Wight’s annual budget.

“We need to be fair across the board; don’t give me a 6% raise and give them a 2.5% raise,” Jefferson said.

Rosie said he “wouldn’t mind” more compensation, asserting that he already spends one-third to half of the current salary on expenses related to holding his office, and agreed with Acree that an increase could open the door for more residents with fewer financial resources to run for the office.

“You’re talking about managing a $90 million or so budget a year,” Rosie said, contending that “even $20,000” would not be “overcompensation by any means.”

The discussion among the supervisors follows a 2022 vote by Isle of Wight County School Board members to give themselves $1,000 raises. A new $6,000 salary for School Board members and $7,000 salary for the School Board chair took effect Jan. 1.