Loudoun supervisors scuffled briefly before voting Thursday to increase their district budgets by $30,000 each – except for the Ashburn District – amounting to nearly a quarter of a million dollars in new spending for their offices collectively.
Ashburn was excluded at Supervisor Ralph Buona’s (R-Ashburn) request after he objected to the increases.
Buona was among three supervisors – including Suzanne Volpe (R-Algonkian) and Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) – who objected to the proposal, which came on the last meeting before the board’s August break. But other board members said their staff are having difficulty keeping up with an increasingly demanding workload.
“We are well, well under what the neighboring counties provide for their boards of supervisors’ offices,” said Supervisor Matt Letourneau, who proposed the increase.
Since FY2013, Loudoun has allocated about $120,600 to each district. Prince William and Fairfax counties provide their district offices roughly three and four times that amount, respectively. The Loudoun Board of Supervisors has been allocating $161,000 to the chairman’s budget, while Fairfax ($529,726) and Prince William ($406,892) pay far more. Those counties have offices in each district, whereas Loudoun has a central office where all supervisors’ staff are located.
Umstattd said she appreciates the hard work staff members undertake, but pointed out that she had no office and no staff when she served as major of Leesburg.
“There are other things of value that we could use that money for, the schools, mental health,” she said.
Buona also opposed the proposal and even requested an amendment to exclude his office from the increase.
“I think with the proper management, you can manage things and not return your whole budget,” he said, adding that while he appreciates the use unallocated surplus funds, “after this year then it gets programmed in the budget as a budgeted amount going forward.”
Supervisor Geary Higgins said his staff has trouble keeping up with constituent requests because his district was very large and did not have homeowners associations to help conduct some of the oversight.
“There’s a lot of work that we are having trouble keeping up with in our office,” he said.
“It’s the ability to serve the people of our district.”
Supervisor Ron Meyer (R-Broad Run) made almost the opposite point, suggested his staff had trouble keeping up with the numerous HOAs in his district.
“I will tell you that in the Broad Run District we have more businesses starting in our district and more applications in our district than any other district,” Meyer said, adding that just responding to questions about and tracking the installation of anticipated traffic signals had become a significant chore. “Our staff members, especially those of us who live in active districts feel overburdened and I think they are overburdened.”
Chair Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) said she previously opposed such an increase because she feels county employees have not been given adequate adjustments over the years, and that she hopes fellow supervisors remember that at budget time. Letourneau pointed out that county employees tend to at least get cost of living adjustments annually.
“I was saying no because in my opinion, we had not provided relief to many of our county employees for many years,” Randall said, explaining that she would support the move now because she sees how hard her staff works.
“I don’t’ feel like I need to burn out my staff,” she said, and then added that she would gladly accept to any surplus funds from another district to boost her office budget.