Some supervisors support pay raises

<h3>Warren County board discusses potential increases for county workers</h3>

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL — Warren County continues to lose employees to higher-paying jobs in other places, including Front Royal.

But some members of the Board of Supervisors on Wednesday voiced support for giving raises to employees. Supervisors talked at their work session about the next fiscal budget — an early look at the county’s goals for the spending plan. County Administrator Doug Stanley said departments should receive forms in the near future for their list of budget needs for fiscal 2016.

Departments may need to keep funding requests to a minimum if they want pay raises, Stanley warned.

“I know we’ve gotten to the point where we’re starting to lose people,” Stanley said.

The Department of Social Services has lost 20 employees in the past two years, according to information from county Human Resources Manager Jody Spittler. The Department of Fire and Rescue Services has lost five full-time employees and many part-time workers in two years, Spittler said after the meeting. Of the five who left, four were firefighters certified as medics. The county hasn’t had as many applicants for part-time workers as in the past.

Other departments such as the Commissioner of the Revenue Office, Parks and Recreation, Circuit Court Clerk’s Office and the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, which typically experience little turnover, have lost at least one full-time employee in the past two years, according to Spittler.

“Again, we’re never going to compete with the Fauquiers and Loudouns and Prince Williams [counties] and Manassas Parks,” Stanley said. “We’re never gonna try to do that. Maybe we just need to stay competitive locally.”

Frederick County’s Department of Social Services hired seven new employees July 1, Stanley said.

Should the board want to make pay raises a goal for fiscal 2016 budget, Stanley said he could emphasize to department leaders they need to keep spending requests to a minimum if they want to make it easier for supervisors to accommodate an increase.

The county gave raises to government employees of between 2.5 percent and 5.57 percent from fiscal 2005 to 2009. Workers received no salary increases from fiscal 2010 through 2012. The county gave raises in fiscal 2013 and 2014, but none in the current budget cycle. Raises to county employees came mid-budget cycle in fiscal 2013 and 2014. The School Board gave raises in the same fiscal periods. The county and School Board also are phasing in salary raises over five years to cover a state-mandated increase in what employees pay into the Virginia Retirement System.

In total, salaries for government employees have increased 27.23 percent since fiscal 2005; school workers, 24.67 percent. Information Stanley provided shows that an item that cost $1 in 2004 now costs $1.26, so the composite price index has increased by 26 percent.

“So we really haven’t gained any ground,” Stanley said.

Supervisor Richard Traczyk and other board members voiced support for pay increases.

“I’ve always been strongly in favor of a living wage and I know we’ve been stingy … the last couple of years,” Traczyk said.

Board Chairman Daniel Murray Jr. said departments and outside agencies shouldn’t have “pie-in-the-sky” requests.

“We need to be realistic,” Murray said. “If we want to keep the crowd of people we have, if we want to continue to grow, be progressive, then we have to pay a competitive salary.”

Whether or not the county would need to increase taxes to fund pay raises remains uncertain. A 2 or 2.5 percent pay increase for school employees would cost the county about $250,000, Stanley said.

<em>Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or <a href=“mailto:abridges@nvdaily.com”>abridges@nvdaily.com</a></em>