At his final meeting of the Henry County Board of Supervisors as County Administrator, Tim Hall addressed what he termed disinformation regarding pay rates for Henry County Sheriff’s deputies on Tuesday.
Despite posts on social media and other claims to the contrary, “the county is not absorbing, diverting, or otherwise taking the Comp Board money away for other uses,” Hall said.
“Lately there has been significant social media chatter about Henry County deputies being denied their Commonwealth of Virginia raises of 5 percent, effective July 1,” Hall told the board. “Much of the chatter says the same thing—that Henry County absorbed this state money, and Henry County is not giving it to the deputies. This allegation is absolutely false.”
Hall said that the budget for fiscal year (FY) 2022-23, which the board approved and appropriated earlier in the meeting, “includes at least a 6 percent raise for local law enforcement. This includes the 5 percent from the (State) Compensation Board.”
Hall said that the average raise for local law enforcement was 9.6 percent, which was “well above the state-mandated 5 percent. That gap between those two numbers is completely funded by local money.”
While he said there he had not been involved in any direct conversation about the matter, he speculated that “perhaps some of the confusion is based on the supplement the Board of Supervisors provided for law enforcement that was effective Jan. 1, 2022.”
That money, Hall reminded the board, was requested in Oct. 2021 by the Sheriff’s Office as a mid-year financial adjustment “and was presented as a way to encourage employees to stay with the department.”
He said the supplement, taken from one-time American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds was “roughly the equivalent to a $2 per hour per eligible Sheriff’s (Office) employee (raise) from Jan. 1 to June 30, 2022.
“To reiterate, this was a supplement, one-time money,” Hall said. “It came from the one-time ARPA allocation. This was not a salary increase, and that was explicitly driven home by the fact that no sheriff’s department employee had this money added to their base salary which is reported to the Virginia Retirement System.”
Hall said that “the supplement was a lump-sum amount paid monthly and was not based on the number of hours worked. All deputies got the same amount, no matter how many hours they worked or what their base salaries were. This was clear.”
Hall said that staff did not know “whether these details were relayed to the rank-and-file employees of the Sheriff’s (Office) because that is not a conversation we would ever be a part of.”
Perhaps some of the confusion about whether deputies had already received a raise came from a press release issued after the board’s Oct. 26, 2021, meeting. The headline stated, “Henry County approves pay increase for law enforcement and public safety.”
The release refers to the board’s October action as approving a salary increase several times, and states, in part, that “American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds will be used to provide a $2 per hour hazard duty supplement to law enforcement and public safety personnel from January 1, 2022, to June 30, 2022. The supplement results in an annualized salary increase of $4,160 for each deputy” and that “the additional revenue needed to cover these pay raises in the future will be equivalent to a 3.9-cents increase on the real estate tax.”
The phrase “pay increase” appears several other times throughout the document. For instance, “Following the pay increase, the starting salary for a deputy in Henry County will be $43,160,” and “By approving the request, the board has now given the seventh pay increase to deputies since 2017, including a $3,000 bonus that will be paid on Nov. 15, 2021.”
Regardless, Hall reiterated that, effective Friday, July 1, “all local law enforcement personnel are getting at least a 6 percent raise, and many are getting more than that. This includes the 5 percent from the Comp Board and at least 1 percent from Henry County.”
He further noted the recently-approved state budget “provides additional pay for law enforcement to address compression issues,” another problem broached by Perry. “This adjustment,” Hall said, “will be effective Aug. 1, and most likely will come with a local responsibility as part of that well.”
Hall also noted that the state mandates 200 positions with the Sheriff’s Office, but pays only a portion of their salaries, with the remainder being covered by Henry County.
“However,” he said, “there are an additional 26 employees in law enforcement that are not mandated but are fully-funded by Henry County. Even though the Comp Board raises are not mandated for these local positions, Henry County matches that state raise for these local positions.”
“These are the facts,” Hall stated. “We’re not absorbing the Comp Board money. That was never the intent. We couldn’t do it if we wanted to.”
Hall said he was “hopeful that facts mattered, and that social media could be chilled a bit. We’re not taking anybody’s money. In fact, we’re giving them more than the state compensation board told us we had to give.”
Hall acknowledged that “local law enforcement has an incredibly difficult and dangerous job … they all deserve more money. Teachers deserve more money. PSA (Public Service Authority) employees deserve more money. County employees deserve more money. We can only take it from one place, and that’s the taxpayer’s pocket.”
Finally, Hall said, since Aug. 2020, “Sheriff’s Deputies have received an average of $8,281 in one-time stipends or supplements, and that includes the ARPA money from Jan. 1 to June 30. Again, this is in addition to any salary increases that they have received.
“Is it enough? No. Is it what they deserve? No.”
No one who works in public service makes enough, Hall said. “That’s a debate that should continue after I leave on Thursday. I’m hopeful that you will continue to address that. But I do hope, as I get out of here, that future conversations can be based on fact and not on misinformation.”