Fairfax County faces a number of budget challenges in Fiscal Year 2014.
But top on the minds of county employees, they said at a public hearing with the county Board of Supervisors: better, fairer compensation.
County Executive Ed Long's $7 billion FY2014 budget proposal raises real estate taxes and cuts funds to parks and libraries, among other services. It also includes a 2-cent increase in the real estate tax rate from $1.075 per $100 of assessed value to $1.095, expected to raise millions in revenue.
But the budget doesn't include market rate adjustments to county employee salaries.
The school system hopes to be able to give employees an increase of just under 2 percent.
Randy Creller, chairman of the Employees Advisory Council, pointed out that the market rate adjustments, meant to keep employee salaries current with inflation, had only been funded twice in the last six budgets.
Creller said employee salaries suffer from 8.66 percent less purchasing power than they did six years ago. Higher insurance premiums only add to problem.
He also took issue with STRIVE, Long’s controversial new employee compensation plan in which workers would get a cost of living increase (estimated to be about 2 percent) in odd-numbered years and be eligible for regular and performance-based pay bumps in even-numbered years.
Creller argued that it wouldn’t keep up with inflation.
Since 1998, the market rate adjustment average has been 2.7 percent, Creller said. With STRIVE, the rate will drop to an average of 1.6 percent.
“STRIVE is woefully deficient as a compensation plan,” he said. “Fairfax County employees deserve to be valued and compensated fairly.”
Creller fears employees would leave for neighboring jurisdictions with better compensation plans. Prince William and Loudoun County employees are getting 2 percent MRAs, Creller said. Employees of Fairfax County Public Schools are expecting an adjustment, too.
“The exploitation of the current unemployment rate and the growing job applicant pools is not going to last forever, but a tarnished reputation will,” he said.
Joseph Wilhelm, speaking on behalf of the Fairfax County Government Employees Union, told the story of a carpenter who works for the county.
“He searches for every opportunity to make extra money,” Wilhelm said. “He’s been with the county 14 years and he only makes $3.42 an hour more today than when he started.”
Steve Greenburg spoke on behalf of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers and in support of all county employees.
He urged them to be fair to county employees when FCPS employees were set to receive MRAs.
The county’s quality public employees help maintain the services that in turn provide for a bustling, thriving economy, Greenburg said.
“To think that [FCPS employees] would be given a good faith increase when county employees won’t is beyond unfair,” he said. “It’s destructive.”