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Fairfax County employees will receive an $850 bonus this fall, courtesy of the county’s year-end budget surplus.

The bonus will amount to about $500 after taxes, said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova (D).

While the resolution outlining the spending plan for the $94 million left over from fiscal 2013 passed unanimously, some board members and county unions would have preferred a permanent salary increase.

A 2 percent cost of living increase would cost about $0.8 million more than the $10.2 million the county will spend on the bonus.

“I believe if we’re going to attract and maintain the best and most efficient workforce … we need to address their compensation right away,” said Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield).

As part of its first-ever two-year budget planning process, the Board of Supervisors is planning for a cost-of-living increase for county employees in fiscal 2015, which begins July 1, 2014. Herrity and Supervisors Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) and Mike Frey (R-Springfield) were advocating advancing the pay raise to Jan. 1, which county employee unions were lobbying for.

Employee representatives noted that a bonus will be largely absorbed by taxes and does not allow workers’ pay to keep up with inflation and with surrounding jurisdictions.

County employees did not receive a pay increase in the current budget year. They did receive a raise in the prior fiscal year but went several years without a pay hike following the recession.

“My membership deserves a pay raise. They put their lives on the line all day, every day,” said John Niemic, president of the local firefighters and paramedics union.

However, Bulova and other board members said it has always been the board’s policy not to use one-time funding to pay for a recurring expense, such as employee salaries. They also said they thought that action now would preclude a more comprehensive overhaul of the county’s pay and make it harder to provide the promised raise in fiscal 2015.

“It would be a shame to throw out the process of a multiyear budget before we’ve even started it,” said Supervisor John Cook (R-Braddock).

The county is working on the larger employee pay issue on several fronts, including a market survey of how county employee compensation stacks up against other jurisdictions in the area and a series of meetings planned with county employees this fall.

“The workforce dialogues are not an idle exercise,” said Supervisor Penny Gross (D-Mason). “We need to let the workforce dialogue process continue through the fall.”

kschumitz@fairfatimes.com