County Board of Supervisors questions proposed pay raises

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

The Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors challenged the need for another round of salary increases for staff and deputies for the upcoming fiscal year.

The proposed 2 percent cost of living bump comes on the heels of salary increases last year for nearly two-thirds of staff, as well as an earlier 2 percent increase to cover health care costs.  

The issue was discussed at a worksession Thursday concerning the fiscal 2017 budget, which calls for a three-cent real estate tax increase — from 85 to 88 cents per $100 in assessed value.

Interim County Administrator Sanford “Sandy” Wanner said the latest 2 percent increase was for continued “maintenance” of the salary and compensation plan that was enacted last year. After employee appeals, the final cost of the plan is $1.2 million, said Director of Human Resources Mary Beth Johnson. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Wanner said he selected two percent for the upcoming year because it was the figure used by other localities. The cost of the proposed 2 percent cost of living increase is estimated at $320,689, he said.

Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree said he was elected to do a “maintenance” program for the residents, many hadn’t gotten raises in years and “they’ve let us know.”

Also, some employees got an increase from the pay and salary study last year and some did not — even though they have worked for the county for a very long time, he said.

Others received raises after only being on the job a short time, Acree said.

“These are the concerns of the citizens,” he said.

Chairman Rex Alphin said it would be hard to justify another pay increase in less than a year.

Two percent is a penny on the real estate tax, he said.

Smithfield District Supervisor Dick Grice said he would bet one dollar (his typical amount) that he could not find 10 people in Isle of Wight County who saw a substantial increase in salary and benefits in the past year — and most not in many years.

Newport District Supervisor William McCarty said the corporate world does not give raises to cover health care costs.

“It doesn’t happen in the private sector.”

The salary and compensation study enacted last fall gave an average $3,700 raise to full-time employees.

Of the roughly 219 full-time employees, close to two-thirds got a raise. Of those that did get a raise, nearly 40 percent were in the Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office.

Nine employees received raises in excess of $10,000, and of those, five were department heads and two were in the sheriff’s office. The remaining two worked in general services and the Isle of Wight County Circuit Court Clerk’s office.

Johnson said it had been seven years since the county had completed a salary and compensation study. She also pointed out widespread salary “compression,” meaning some supervisors were making the same, or less, than their newer employees.

Wanner said the budget does not include any new staff and he’s cut and frozen some full-time positions.

Grice said going seven years without a raise was not unusual and was happening to many people in the United States in the aftermath of the recession.

Isle of Wight County Sheriff Mark Marshall defended the salary increases for his deputies as most make less than $42,000 a year.

Starting salaries are in the $30,000s, he said.

“It was something that was badly needed,” Marshall said, adding that some of his deputies cannot live here, and with a family, are at the food stamp level.

“They are grossly underpaid for what they do,” he said.

Grice suggested the Board of Supervisors take a 10 percent pay cut and staff go back and shave 4 percent from the overall budget.

The proposed fiscal 2017 Isle of Wight County budget will be the subject of a public hearing Thursday, April 21, 6 p.m. at the courthouse complex.

The Board will have another budget worksession Wednesday, April 27, 10 a.m. with plans to adopt the budget May 10.  {/mprestriction}