GENERIC Charlottesville City Hall

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Statues of presidents James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe adorn the exterior of City Hall on the Downtown Mall.

Salary and benefits for the Charlottesville clerk of council office have risen 69% since July 2017, while those costs in the city manager’s office have risen 13.8% in that time.

The city also is paying $103,608 more in total payroll for eight high-ranking positions that were vacated after the 2017 Unite the Right rally.

Nearly all employees were given a salary increase on July 1, the start of the fiscal year. Detailed information was provided to The Daily Progress under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. The numbers do not include employees of the school division.

Police Chief Al Thomas, City Manager Maurice Jones, spokeswoman Miriam Dickler, Clerk of Council Paige Rice and City Attorney Craig Brown left following the rally and have been replaced.

Registrar Rosanna Bencoach, Charlottesville Area Transit Director John Jones and Information Technology Director Karen Parker also resigned and have been replaced since 2017.

Of their replacements, City Attorney John Blair and Information Technology Director Sunny Hwang are the only ones making less than their predecessors.

Spokesman Brian Wheeler is paid about $29,000 more than Dickler was when she resigned. At the time of her resignation, Dickler was paid $92,768. CAT Director Garland Williams makes $148,000, about $25,000 more than his predecessor at CAT.

Beck is the only high-ranking official who hasn’t been replaced.

By the start of 2020, all five members of the 2017 City Council will no longer be in office.

The fiscal year that started on July 1, 2017, saw a salary and benefits budget of $305,878 for the clerk of council office and $2.18 million for the city manager’s office. Those expenditures have risen to $518,621 and $2.49 million, respectively.

Top Five Salaries for CITY employees

Name FY2020 salary
1. City Manager Tarron Richardson $205,004
2. City Attorney John Blair $166,670
3. Police Chief RaShall Brackney $162,198
4. Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania $160,950
5. Public Utilities Director Lauren Hildebrand $159,328

The city’s 23 highest-paid full-time employees, excluding City Manager Tarron Richardson, saw their salaries increase by $5,717 on average. The 23 lowest-paid full-time employees saw an average increase of $1,455.

The top employees make between $112,000 and $205,000 per year. The lowest-paid staff members make between $31,200 and $33,800.

The fiscal 2020 budget included across-the-board pay raises of 4.17%. Sworn police officers were given an additional raise, for a total of 9%.

Thomas was among city leaders who received a raise and remained on the city payroll until July 15, 574 days after he resigned amid fallout from the Aug. 12, 2017, Unite the Right rally. Thomas’ resignation came with a confidential settlement agreement that allowed him to continue to draw a paycheck.

For his last two weeks on the payroll, Thomas’ salary increased from $134,513 to $140,108.

Richardson, who started in May, is the highest-paid employee, at $205,000. He did not receive a pay raise on July 1.

The salary information provided to The Progress shows a disparity in pay increases and cost burdens for city employees.

Salary documents show that of the city’s 895 full-time employees, 338 do not make enough to afford a one-bedroom apartment in the city without being cost-burdened, as defined by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition.

The NLIHC defines a worker as cost-burdened when they pay more than 30% of their gross income for housing.

The fair market rent — the cost of a modest rental home — in Charlottesville is $1,146 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,325 for a two-bedroom apartment, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. That means that a person with an annual income of $45,840 would be considered cost-burdened for a one-bedroom apartment.

Only 379 employees meet the income threshold to be above burden for a two-bedroom apartment in the city, which is $53,000.

Richardson’s hiring displaced Blair at the top of the salary list, although Charlottesville was without a city manager for nearly a year. Blair makes $166,670, an increase of $6,677 over the previous fiscal year.

Police Chief RaShall Brackney’s pay has increased almost $18,000, or 12.8%, since she was hired in June 2018. She is now the third-highest paid employee, making $162,198.

Brackney’s raises came over the winter, as the city bumped salaries for sworn officers to address police recruitment and retention.

The chief was among those to receive the 9% raise provided to the police department.

The city also increased the minimum wage for all employees to $15 an hour this year.

Rounding out the top salaries for unelected officials and department heads: Public Utilities Director Lauren Hildebrand is paid $159,328; Deputy City Managers Leslie Beauregard and Mike Murphy are at $158,828; Deputy City Manager/COO Letitia Shelton makes $158,000; Finance Director Chris Cullinan makes $157,144; Parks and Recreation Director Brian Daly and Deputy City Attorney Lisa Robertson make $151,049; Fire Chief Andrew Baxter makes $148,304; Williams makes $148,000; and Hwang makes $145,000.

Shelton, who was Richardson’s second in command at his previous job in DeSoto, Texas, started at the end of July in the newly added position.

Beck has retired, but he is using time off and will remain on the payroll through the end of August at an annual salary of $142,500.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania is the city’s highest-paid elected official at $160,950. He is followed by Clerk of Court Llezzelle Dugger at $129,979, Treasurer Jason Vandever at $105,684, Sheriff James Brown at $98,823 and Commissioner of the Revenue Todd Divers at $95,742.

City Councilors Heather Hill, Mike Signer, Wes Bellamy and Kathy Galvin are paid $18,000 a year for their service and Mayor Nikuyah Walker is paid $20,000.

The only appointed board members to receive a city stipend are the Planning Commission members. The panel’s chair, Lisa Green, receives $3,500 a year, and all other commissioners receive $2,900.

Other salary increases of note are that of Wheeler, the city spokesman, who was hired in January 2018 at $98,000 and as of July 1 makes $121, 284 — a 23.7% increase in an 18-month period.

Clerk of Council Kyna Thomas, who was hired in February at $105,000, got a raise to $109,387. Thomas’ raise was guaranteed in her contract.

Some employees started their service on July 1, such as Registrar Melissa Morton. She makes $72,617. As deputy registrar, she was paid $48,027. Her predecessor made $65,582.

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City hall reporter

Nolan Stout is a reporter for The Daily Progress. Contact him at (434) 978-7274, nstout@dailyprogress.com, or @nstoutDP on Twitter and Facebook.

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