General registrars were given a raise, but some may not be seeing it

Voters in suburban Henrico's Short Pump precinct cast their ballots. The area saw a surge in Democratic voters after Trump's 2016 election. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

A promised 6 percent raise for Virginia general registrars in the state may not be getting paid out as expected, some elections professionals say.

Robin Lind, a member of the Virginia Electoral Board Association and Goochland County Electoral Board, said he knows of at least one instance of a registrar only getting a portion of the promised increase.

“All of our lobbying efforts did not go through,” Lind said at a General Registrar/Electoral Board workgroup meeting this week. The workgroup was created in 2014 to study duties and pay for board members and registrars. Several registrars at the meeting said they had heard of similar cases. 

This year, the state approved a 3% raise for some state employees, including registrars, and an additional 3% specifically for registrars. Most other state employees got a 2.75 percent raise. Lawmakers also agreed to complete a study exploring the possibility of paying registrars like constitutional officers.

Localities share the cost of paying registrars, who are technically state employees. The state is supposed to reimburse municipalities for registrars’ pay, which is based on population. Cities and counties can add more money to it, but that supplement has to be paid for with local funds.

The state has scaled back how much it reimburses localities for registrar pay, Lind said. The state reimburses localities about 70 percent of registrars’ mandated pay, according to two-year old compensation data the workgroup has collected. 

Lind thinks that’s part of the reason the approved raise isn’t showing up in registrars’ paychecks. Localities may be taking the additional state money and using it to make up the difference between how much the state reimburses and what localities pay for registrars’ salaries, not adding it to the registrars’ paychecks.

“If the state was reimbursing 100 percent, then I think the localities would say, ‘Sure, we’ll pass it on,’” he said.

That’s allowable, as long as the locality is paying the registrar the required amount set by the state.

There’s no way to know how many general registrars around the state could be missing out on their full raise because there’s little uniformity in how registrars are compensated outside of the statutory base pay, Lind said. The required contribution to the state retirement system, for example, may be reported as a local supplement, which means it’s not take-home pay.