Apparently the coast is now clear for Arlington County Board members to give themselves the option of big pay raises.
Included in the recently adopted fiscal 2023 budget is a change to the maximum pay rate for County Board members, from $57,337 to $89,851 – an increase of 57 percent.
The maximum pay rate for the chair, a position that rotates among board members on a calendar-year basis, would rise from $63,071 to $95,734.
Board members would still have to vote themselves any pay raise beyond the current rate.
County Board members were slated to make the change as part of the fiscal 2021 budget adopted in the spring of 2020, but the arrival of the pandemic caused them to re-think the timing. Board members also opted against pulling the trigger during last year’s budget process.
The significant increase in County Board salary caps marks a continuing departure from past practice. From its founding in the 1930s until the 1990s, service on the County Board essentially was an act of civic altruism in what was seen as a part-time oversight position. The pay was nominal, although many board members had working spouses to help pick up the slack.
Over the past quarter-century, however, County Board members have added aggrandizements, from providing themselves staff support to giving themselves benefits akin to full-time government personnel.
The higher pay and full-time fringe benefits may prove over time to be a double-edged sword for incumbent board members (Democrats all), as it may encourage more candidates to run for the office.
Matt de Ferranti, whose seat is on the ballot this year, has emerged without a Democratic-primary opponent, effectively greasing the skids for a general-election victory in November. However, the seats of board members Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey are up in 2023, and could become targets of challengers if they opt to seek third terms.