Thursday, July 12, 2007

Local Leader Gets A Huge Raise, But Still Not As Much As Some!

Date Published: 07/12/07
by Dan Telvock/ The Free Lance-Star

Spotsylvania supervisors voted late Tuesday night to increase the county administrator's base salary by 23 percent, which makes him one of the highest-paid government executives in the region.

They came out of closed session shortly before midnight Tuesday and unanimously agreed to pay County Administrator Randy Wheeler a base salary of $173,265.12. His previous base was $140,456.

Supervisors said Wheeler performs under immense pressure in a county experiencing growing pains and they want to keep him so the county has stability for years to come.

"He's done an excellent job," said Chairman Chris Yakabouski. "He's also been underpaid in my opinion when you compare him to other localities."

Wheeler was hired in December 2003 at a salary of $125,000. Before that, he was the deputy county administrator in Fauquier County.

The vote Tuesday didn't change any other benefit in Wheeler's contract, which includes annuity and a monthly car allowance. Although Wheeler signed a two-year contract to June 30, 2009, his pay could increase again next year, supervisors said. The amount of his other benefits weren't readily available.

Supervisors also agreed to pay County Attorney Jacob Stroman $141,890 in base salary. The new salaries were retroactive to July 1.

"In order for us to make sure we keep him, we need to pay him more money," said Supervisor Emmitt Marshall. "The same thing happened with the county attorney. When he came here, his salary was $119,000. I thought he did a pretty good job, so we gave him a pretty good salary."

Supervisors gave mixed messages about whether they were trying to bring Wheeler's salary specifically more in line with school Superintendent Jerry Hill, whose base salary is $175,500. Marshall said Hill's salary is actually above $200,000 when benefits are added, but that could not be confirmed last night on deadline.

"How do you justify a superintendent of the schools drawing over $200,000 and a county administrator making about $141,000? It just didn't sound right to me," Marshall said.
Supervisor Vince Onorato said he didn't use Hill's salary as a comparison.

Stafford County Administrator Steve Crosby is paid $158,231 a year. Orange County Administrator Bill Rolfe is paid $140,874 a year. Fredericksburg City Manager Phil Rodenberg is paid $137,595 a year.

Supervisors approved a budget this year that provided all county employees a 2 percent cost-of-living increase and a 2.5 percent merit increases, for a 4.5 percent total increase.

During budget discussions, Wheeler recommended the county use a pay-for-performance system. But supervisors decided to test the new pay system with only county department heads and executives. They added $25,000 to the budget to try it. The budget states the range of raises will be between 5 percent and 6.5 percent.

"With the pay for performance, it's not going to be a guaranteed increase," Yakabouski said. "Before, it was."

Supervisors voted 5-0 to approve the raises, with Gary Jackson and T.C. Waddy absent. Jackson didn't return a message last night seeking comment.

"He made some improvements so we paid him for the improvements he made," Waddy said.

Onorato said supervisors compared Wheeler's salary to many surrounding localities, including Fairfax and Prince William counties.

"It is not like we're a big county that is already stabilized," he said. "We are under a lot of growing pains right now and it takes a lot of dedication from our staff."

Dear Dan and fellow concerned Republicans,

In fact, School Superintendent Jerry Hill makes $203,799.46 by my calculations which is broken down to:
  • $152, 814.29 Base Salary
  • $10,000 Annual Car Allowance
  • $8,985.17 Deposited into Virginia Retirement System
  • $32,000 Annually in Tax-Sheltered Annuities

In a county where we have many millionaire retirees and many active federal government workers earning a second-career income in addition to collecting their retirement from their first career (perhaps in the military), and yet the Average Annual Household income with two working adults in Spotsylvania County is still only about $84,000, one has to ponder if people get into "public service" to serve their fellow man or simply as profiteers these days. We criticize Enron execs and Haliburton contracts after all, but we don't appear to be watching our own checkbook too closely.

Being paid $200K per year to never sit in traffic on I-95, for a job where your most dangerous hour could be getting computer eye strain or a paper cut, yet your determination to press onward with the courage of a Marine under machine gun fire into the jaws of death from terrorists' cross fire, still does not yield a cure for cancer or pull people from a burning building; makes me wonder where are priorities are as a community.

Do they work hard? I'm sure they do.

Are they dedicated? They had better be for that kind of money.

Are they loyal? Apparently not!

Our history, and by our supervisors' logic of pre-empted raises before competitive offers have been put on the table, has shown us that our county executives and school board leaders jump ship to the next highest bidder. Our last Superintendent did it, so did our lawyer, and so did a few others.

Maybe if we would have just paid them "more", they would have stayed? I'd posit that maybe they just weren't happy, had other plans in life, got bored, or just simply wanted more money and took it. Who could blame them? It's free money after all, and it's there just for the asking, except in some cases like last night, you don't even have to ask.

Why is it always that we use the "neighboring community" as a baseline for a good decision?

This must be how Sirius Radio decided to pay Howard Stern $500M to come tell dirty jokes on a radio system no one owns (statistically speaking). I wonder how that worked out...

Or, how a Major League Soccer team paid David Beckham $250M to come play soccer for them. I'm sure you've already been to several of his games and done your part to support the team right?

If a heart surgeon doesn't show up to work, grandma's die. If a firefighter doesn't show up to work, houses burn and people die. If a teacher doesn't come to work, kids get lost unless a sub is called in.

If a School Superintendent doesn't come to work, would kids in classrooms know any different? Would Teachers? Would Principals? The lunch lady? The Custodian?

Why do we fund schools again- to directly impact children's education? Well, if spending more is the road to education- then maybe we should spend $500k per year now and wave our kids off to Harvard. Oh yeah, school violence is up 100% over 2005, and some schools didn't make their accreditation scores this year. We must not be paying our leadership enough.

Did I mention he also gets THIRTY-SIX days off per year? That's work days, not including weekends, holidays, snow days, and so on.

It must be great to be in public service in 2007! I'll bet the $205,000/year firemen we employ in the county don't mind risking their lives for that kind of scratch. Neither do the guys who repair sewer pipes that burst at 3:00 am in the snow. They're millionaires I think- why else would they do that job?

Oh yeah, that's right, we don't pay them THAT much.

"There's no money in the budget" for paying firemen or school nurses because of all the sacrificing we have to do in the government for the good of the people. Times are tough they tell us, not everyone can be paid as well as our teachers after all, for they all drive Cadillacs with their car allowances I hear. They must really be looking forward to their $40,985 per year tax-sheltered annuities and retirement funds paying off when they mature.

We could hire 5.5 new teachers with our Superintendent's salary alone. Those 5.5 would teach 121 students per year based on our current "overcrowding crisis" teacher/student ratio. I wonder who would notice if we had no one doing that job?

But don't be mad at "poor Jerry", for he merely worked the system. You would just as likely do it too if no one was watching. But we have seven people on the school board and seven people on the supervisors' board who approve such raises. Take it up in the voting booth if you disapprove.

But don't expect a brand new school board to cut Jerry's salary or job any time soon, because his contract was just renewed through June 30, 2009. He's been given a raise of $10,000 to $25,000 each and every year he's been here since 2001, so by the time his contract runs out and he's clearing more than a quarter-million per year, he'll be begging to stay. The question will simply be: will YOU PAY MORE in taxes to fund HIS retirement or would you like to keep anything for your own?

After all, for two full months per year, he's paid to not come to work, and someone does his job then– don't they?

When the average FAMILY of TWO working adults, both retired once, and still working (that's 4 paychecks) only averages ONE-FOURTH of a "public servant's" salary, the servant is no longer serving the public, rather the public is serving the servant.

Isn't there ANYONE out there who will work for a measly $100k any more?