Supervisors tackle new salaries for county employees

By Heather Michon

Compensation for county employees was on the top of the agenda for the Fluvanna Board of Supervisors during its  meeting on Wednesday night (Aug. 3).

To make the county more competitive in hiring and retaining employees, supervisors voted last November to fund a comprehensive compensation and classification study of all county employee positions, with an eye towards making Fluvanna more competitive in hiring and retaining workers. It was the first such study since 2008.

The consulting firm Baker Tilly conducted the study over a period of several months. Among the metrics they looked at were comparable salaries in surrounding counties. 

At the end of the study, they created new recommended salary minimums, midpoints, and maximums for each general staff  and law enforcement position in the county. 

Constitutional officers and the county administrator were excluded from the study.

The results were first introduced at the July 6 meeting. Supervisors were presented with several possible scenarios for bringing salaries up to at least the minimums recommended in the study. Of the five potential scenarios, they decided against three, and sent the remaining two options back to the staff for further development.

County Administrator Eric Dahl presented these two remaining scenarios on Wednesday night.

One would move employees currently below the recommended minimums up to that minimum and also give all employees an increase of  3 to 5 percent. 

Another would bring underpaid employees up to the minimum and give all employees increases of 0.5 percent per number of years of county employment or number of years in their current position, with a minimum increase of 3 percent and a cap of 6 percent.

Dahl recommended this second option. He felt it was the most equitable option for staff, and would cost only slightly more than the $365,000 set aside in the FY23 budget in anticipation that the study would recommend increases. 

Fairness was the core of the discussion over how to implement the increases. The concern was that some employees would inevitably benefit more than others.

“The goal was to find ‘are we competitive’ and what are the ranges that make us competitive,” said Cunningham Supervisor Chris Fairchild. “And to me, no matter what we vote for, it’s clear that some are going to get an advantage from this only because this study was done. That has nothing to do with whether we are competitive or not.”

Rivanna Supervisor Tony O’Brien echoed some of the same sentiments, adding that the county had already implemented an across-the-board 5 percent increase in the FY23 budget.

They questioned Dahl as to why all current staff would see a further increase under these plans. He explained that if they didn’t raise all salaries, it could result in a “wage compression,” where new hires were earning as much or more than existing staff with more seniority.

Fork Union Supervisor Mozell Booker made a motion for Dahl’s recommendation, which included a 0.5 percent increase in salary for all employees for each year in their current position, with a minimum increase of 3 percent and a cap of 6 percent. 

Booker and Palmyra Supervisor Patricia Eager voted in favor of the motion, while O’Brien and Fairchild voted against it. Chair Mike Sheridan voted with Booker and Eager, with the motion passing 3-2.


County clerk pay

In a separate issue, County Clerk Tristana Treadway asked supervisors to approve incentive pay totaling approximately $9,000 to three deputy clerks who have successfully completed a specialized certification course. 

The clerk of the court is one of six constitutional officers in county government, meaning that the state’s Compensation Board determines much of the staffing, pay, and budget for her department. 

Treadway has a total of seven deputies, four of them funded by the Compensation Board and automatically eligible for a 9.3 percent pay increase upon certification. The other three deputy positions are funded by the county and don’t have the same guarantee. 

She asked the supervisors to pay an additional $2,732 for each of the three staffers who have completed the rigorous course to become Certified Master Circuit Court Clerks. This would be an annual increase, contingent on employees keeping their certifications up to date.      

Dahl said he was not in favor of approving Treadway’s request because it would inevitably lead to other department heads coming in with similar funding requests 

Supervisors decided to defer the matter until the Aug. 17 meeting.  


Public comments focused again on a new self-storage facility proposed for Rt.  53 next to the UVA Community Credit Union building. Rezoning the land for business use is slated to return to the agenda at the Aug. 17 meeting, after two deferrals since June.

Corven Flynn, co-owner of Gate Plaza on Turkeysag Trail has been a vocal opponent of the self-storage facility, which he believes will drive down the value of his property. 

He has also been highly critical of the county’s handling of the zoning application, saying they were “not following process and not following procedure.” He pressed the supervisors to admit that mistakes had been made and hold staff accountable.

“You can either lead right,” he said, “or you can lead wrong.” 

During both rounds of public comments, Flynn focused on the supervisors’ handling of their June 15 meeting. Chair Mike Sheridan was away on a scheduled vacation and Vice-Chair Tony O’Brien was faced with a last-minute family emergency. O’Brien called in and handed the gavel off to Mozell Booker to run the meeting while he continued to participate by phone. Flynn believes that O’Brien’s participation – and thus the meeting –  was invalid. 

However, state law allows electronic participation for public officials for a limited number of times for health or other personal matters. With that law set to expire in September, a resolution codifying electronic participation was approved and added to the supervisors’ by-laws at the July 6 meeting. It allows members to join remotely up to six times a year.  

Flynn also objected to the notation in the meeting’s minutes that referred to O’Brien’s absence as resulting from his attendance at a funeral, which had not been mentioned at the June 15 meeting. Booker had offered O’Brien condolences without further details.

After public comments were closed, O’Brien took the rare step of responding to some of Flynn’s assertions. He confirmed that his absence was due to the unexpected death of his uncle in Pennsylvania and that he had alerted fellow supervisors and the county attorney about the situation. He said the county attorney had told him he was permitted to participate electronically.   

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