County Board Bids to Boost Pay

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, June 18, 2019

Note: After hearing from the public, the Board voted to increase its salary caps from $57,337 to $89,851 for members and from $63,071 to $95,734 for the chair–for an increase of more than 50 percent. When these caps are implemented, Arlington County Board members–with one quarter the budget to oversight–will have awarded themselves salaries equivalent to Fairfax County Board.

I’ve reviewed the comparative salary data in the staff report for item 36 [the proposed pay increase] using data published on the Internet, and I can vouch for their accuracy. However, one important data vector is missing, namely the budgets of Arlington and its neighboring jurisdictions.

Budgets are critical in estimating board member salaries, because higher budgets are associated with more work. Attached is a table showing Arlington board member salaries and operating budgets relative to those of Alexandria, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, Montgomery County and DC. It shows DC with a $13 billion budget as compared with $4.64 billion for Fairfax County and $1.4 billion for Arlington. The corresponding board chair salaries are: $210,000, $100,000 and $60,662.

The question is whether Arlington board members are compensated fairly relative to their peers and if not, how much additional compensation is needed.

To answer this question, I did a least squares regression analysis with the Excel LINEST function using operating budget to estimate salary. I then used the coefficients produced by the regression analysis to predict Arlington board member and chairman salaries. The predicted salary for Arlington board members is about $57,000 and that of the chair is about $58,000. Admittedly the data are sparse, producing large standard errors. Nevertheless these numbers are in line with the Option (1) Raising the salary cap for Board Members to $61,034 and for the Board Chair to $67,464.

Therefore I recommend Option (1) as consistent with past practice and objective analysis based on local jurisdictional operating budgets.

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