5% Pay Raise in Northampton Budget

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By Stefanie Jackson – Northampton Finance Director John Chandler presented the county’s proposed expenditures for fiscal year 2022 to supervisors March 23, totaling nearly $35 million from the general fund.

Chandler noted the county is positioned to have a balanced budget based on the FY 2022 projected revenues he reported previously and the proposed expenditures he reviewed Tuesday night.

Among the highlights of the proposed expenditures, Northampton plans to give county employees a 5% raise in the upcoming fiscal year.

Virginia’s budget includes a 5% raise for constitutional officers and other positions funded by the state compensation board, and Northampton plans to provide an equivalent pay increase for its regular county employees.

The 5% raise for regular employees will consist of a nearly 2% cost of living adjustment and two step raises of 1.5% each, at a cost to the county of about $500,000.

When preparing the budget, county staff have remained focused on providing “equitable pay for all employees,” Chandler’s report stated.

Supervisor John Coker asked if that meant the county intends to pay its employees living wages.

County Administrator Charlie Kolakowski called the living wage an “ill-defined term” but said the county has been implementing the recommendations from a compensation study done last year, and it’s progressing toward “people getting paid what they deserve.”

He noted that all county employees are paid more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

Chandler added that the state minimum wage will be $8.50 per hour starting May 1, and it will increase to $11 per hour in January 2022.

Northampton will save about $88,000 on its contributions to the cost of employee health insurance “because our rates actually went down, which is awesome,” Chandler said.

The county must contribute at least 80% of the cost of individual employee health insurance.

Northampton will save money on employee health insurance and individual costs will remain unchanged.

Chandler explained the individual costs will stay the same because employees in the wellness program pay only one penny for single employee health insurance, so the cost cannot drop any lower.

That price is for the cheapest health insurance plan that has a $1,000 deductible, Chandler said.

Northampton will spend about $4 million more from its general fund in FY 2022 because it will receive more revenue, he pointed out.

The county will receive $2 million in state funding to improve the former Northampton Middle School building, which supervisors are interested in converting into a community center.

About $1.2 million in additional revenue will be generated by a new sales tax.

Northampton citizens voted in November 2020 to approve an additional 1% sales tax that will raise capital funds for building improvements and new construction at Northampton’s middle and high school complex.

The harbor improvement fund also is expected to increase $463,000 due to anticipation of the receipt of two Virginia Port Authority grants, one for $475,000 for a parking lot at the Oyster harbor, and another for $54,000 for a restroom at Morley’s Wharf.

The Eastern Shore Regional Jail’s operating budget will increase by about $135,000 or more to contract housing for inmates from Bristol, Va. About 20 inmates are expected, but if more are housed, the budget will be amended accordingly.

Chandler adjusted the FY 2022 revenue projections he had made in a previous presentation to include an additional $2.8 million, including the $2 million for the old middle school.

Based on year-to-date tax collections, he projected that in FY 2022, Northampton would receive not 95% but 97% of all real estate taxes owed, giving the county an additional $513,000 in revenue.

Likewise, Chandler projected that the county will receive not 82% but 87% of personal property taxes owed, providing more than $148,000 in additional revenue.

He also projected $50,000 more in sales taxes and $25,000 more in police fines.