How many state laws did the Caroline County BOS violate when they gave themselves pay raises?

At the beginning of the 2008 calendar year a 2% pay increase went into effect for the Caroline County Board of Supervisors (BOS).

At the beginning of July 1st — the beginning of the 2008/2009 fiscal year — the budget adopted by the board increased their pay by 5%.

That makes a total of a 7% increase in six months in their salary to $18,693.20 per head for two nights of work a month.

In the same budget, a proposed 5% increase for county employees was reduced from a 5% merit pay increase to a 2% cost-of-living increase.

That means for a member of the county staff, unless they make more than $61,650 a year, not only did they receive a lower percentage increase — they also received a lower absolute (dollar) increase as well!

Not only that, but as the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported in 2006, the supervisors for Caroline received $10,000 more per year than the supervisors in King George and Westmoreland County (which have comparable populations)! (link)

From my look through of the Code of Virginia, I see two different sections that involve the salary of a board of supervisors, § 15.2-1414.2 “Salaries to be fixed by board; limits; reimbursement in addition to salary” and § 15.2-1414.3 “Alternative procedure for establishing salaries of boards of supervisors; limits; fringe benefits”.

§ 15.2-1414.2 states, in part, the following:

The annual compensation to be allowed each member of the board of supervisors of a county shall be determined by the board of supervisors of such county but such compensation shall not be more than a maximum determined in the following manner. Prior to July 1 of the year in which members of the board of supervisors are to be elected or, if the board is elected for staggered terms, of any year in which at least forty percent of the members of the board are to be elected, the current board, by a recorded vote of a majority present, shall set a maximum annual compensation which will become effective as of January 1 of the next year.

[…]

No increase in the salary of a member of the board of supervisors shall take effect during the incumbent supervisor’s term in office; however, this restriction shall not apply to boards of supervisors when the supervisors are elected for staggered terms nor to corrections to the above listed compensation.

§ 15.2-1414.3 states, in part, the following:

In lieu of other provisions of law, the boards of supervisors of the several counties may establish annually, by ordinance, and pay in monthly installments each of their members an annual salary pursuant to the following procedure and schedule:

1. On a date determined by the board of supervisors, not earlier than May 1 nor later than June 30 each year, the board, after public hearing pursuant to notice in the manner and form provided in §§ 15.2-1426 and 15.2-1427, shall establish by ordinance the salary of its members for the ensuing fiscal year not to exceed the maximums herein set out.

2. Counties within the following population brackets shall be allowed to set salaries for board members not to exceed the following amounts:

Population Annual Salary

[portion of table omitted]

15,000 to 24,999 5,500

[portion of table omitted]

The maximum annual salaries herein provided may be adjusted in any year or years, by ordinance as above provided, by an inflation factor not to exceed five percent.

Based on my reading of these two sections of state code and after doing searches for both “15.2-1414.2” and “15.2-1414.3” on Google to see how counties have used them, the sections work the following way: § 15.2-1414.2 allows a county board of supervisors to set their pay to any amount as long as it is an election year when at least 40% of the board is up for election. This must be done before July 1 of the election year and will not take affect until January 1 of the following year.

§ 15.2-1414.3 allows a board to set their salary outside of an election year to a maximum ($5,500 in Caroline County’s case based on the 2000 census). It also, apparently, allows the board to adjust their salary’s up 5% each year, even salaries that were set pursuant to § 15.2-1414.2 (at least other counties have used § 15.2-1414.3 to do that). This must be done between May 1 and June 30 and goes into affect the next fiscal year.

The use of § 15.2-1414.3 to increase the board’s salary would require the adoption of a ordinance according to state law. It is required when adopting an ordinance for the county to hold a public hearing pursuant to §§ 15.2-1426 and 15.2-1427.

I see several errors in the way the board has increased their pay:

  1. For the pay raise beginning on January 1, 2008, the board did not vote on any matter involving board pay — except for the 2007/2008 budget — specifically before July 1, 2007 pursuant to § 15.2-1414.2 according to their minutes.
  2. However, the vote on the budget couldn’t be considered a vote authorizing a pay increase beginning on January 1 due to the fact that the board went over budget for salaries in the 07/08 budget year due to the 2% pay increase beginning on January 1.
  3. The 5% increase that started on the July 1 — the beginning of the 08/09 fiscal year — was clearly done in violation of state law: To use the 5% inflation adjustment available to boards pursuant to § 15.2-1414.3, the county must adopt an ordinance establishing their pay with a 5% increase between May 1 and June 30. To adopt a ordinance, state law requires a public hearing to be held. No such ordinance was adopted and no public hearing was held.
  4. Besides the obvious illegalities involved, there’s also the morally wrong aspect of a board increasing their pay — while increasing taxes by $0.05 per $100 assessed during a struggling economy — while also only giving county staff a 2% pay increase.

You know, one of the supervisors on the previous board lost their reelection campaign last year partly due to the continuous pay increases implemented by the board.

Maybe next time all of ’em will get voted out.

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