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Fairfax Employees Could See Pay Changes

County Executive Ed Long has proposed a new, alternating-year compensation system that could cut annual costs in half.

With looming budget shortfalls over the next two fiscal years, Fairfax County employees could be looking at adjustments to their compensation.

“I am concerned that the County’s variable pay program is no longer effective and is financially unsustainable,” County Executive Ed Long said. “We just cannot afford the program that we have.”

County workers received a pay increase during the Fiscal Year 2013 budget process, which cost the county about $50 million. Long said it was uncertain whether any employees would receive pay increases in FY 2014.

In Long’s proposed system, which would kick in after FY 2014, county employees would get a cost of living increase in odd-numbered years and be eligible for regular and performance-based pay bumps in even-numbered years. Public safety employees would still receive increases based on longevity annually, but public safety merit increases would be paid in even-numbered years.

The costs to the county should it implement the new system would be cut in half, Long said – spending between $20 million and $30 million a year.

“I think this is much more addressable, based on our budget situation, than $50 million a year,” he said.

Long said he wanted to move the county toward a more concrete pay system, one more predictable in tough economic environments.

In a presentation to the Board of Supervisors’ Personnel Committee, Long said county employees had lost faith in the current compensation program.

“It is clear that employees’ peace of mind when it comes to pay has eroded,” he said. Long reasoned employees want more certainty when it comes to their pay increases instead of waiting to see what money is available when “the dust settles with the budget.”

The number of county employees reaching retirement age is also challenging, Long said. About 20 percent of the county’s senior leadership is eligible for retirement, and by FY2015, when these changes would go into effect, nearly 50 percent would be.

Long said that managing the turnaround of senior employees and filling their positions had to be a priority.

The county plans to solicit employee input before any decisions on the proposal are made, and details on those meetings are forthcoming.

Though Fairfax County Public Schools receive a transfer from the county, it sets its own employee compensation packages. 

Along with a retirement contribution shift, the change cost the system $47.1 million. 

Implementing the beginning of a state-mandated Virginia Retirement System rate shift also cost the school system $74.1 million.

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