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Warren Fiske
By Warren Fiske April 1, 2020

Does Richmond pay to top school officials more than Fairfax County?

Richmond City Councilwoman Kim Gray recently announced she’ll run for mayor this year, promising to be stricter on spending than incumbent Levar Stoney.

Gray has been a constant critic of Stoney, accusing him of being more interested in higher office and grandiose plans than solving Richmond’s core problems. She led a charge that defeated Stoney’s signature proposal to replace the Richmond Coliseum and has opposed the mayor’s efforts to increase taxes on meals and real estate.

During a March 3 radio interview on WRVA, Gray said Richmond doesn’t need higher taxes, it needs greater government efficiency - especially in its school system.

Host John Reid asked what she would do differently than Stoney about schools. Gray said she’d look for savings in the school system’s central office.

"I would lose some of the top-heavy weight," said Gray, a former Richmond School Board member. "We’re paying people exorbitant salaries, higher than the average across the entire Commonwealth. Even Fairfax County doesn’t pay the kind of salaries that Richmond is paying right now." 

Fairfax is one of the wealthiest counties in the nation and has a high cost of living. We fact-checked Gray’s claim that it pays school administrators less than Richmond.

Gray told us she was referring to the salaries of Richmond Superintendent Jason Kamras, who was hired in 2018, and his top five administrators. She said she was under the impression they were paid more than their Fairfax counterparts, but didn’t have proof. So, under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, we requested the top 10 salaries paid by Richmond and Fairfax public schools.

Here’s what we found:

As we’ve mentioned, it’s far more expensive to live in Fairfax than Richmond, largely because of housing costs. Salary.com says Fairfax County’s cost of living is 61% higher than Richmond’s; Payscale.com says it’s 50% higher. Those costs exceed the 20% salary bump the Fairfax school administrators have over their Richmond counterparts.

In other words, the Richmond salaries have more purchasing power.

Our ruling

Gray, in complaining about what she sees as the high pay of top Richmond school officials, said, "even Fairfax doesn’t pay the kind of salaries Richmond is paying."

That suggests Richmond administrators are taking home bigger checks than their Fairfax counterparts. That’s what Gray told us she thought, and it’s wrong. Actually, they’re taking home 20 percent less pay.

If Gray, in the future, wants to compare the pay of school administrators adjusted for cost of living, she should specify that.

But as for the comment she made, it’s False.

 

Our Sources

Kim Gray, Comments on Newsradio WRVA, March 3, 2020 (5:32 mark).

Interview with Gray, March 3, 2020.

Richmond Public Schools, Email on top 10 salaries for 2019-2020 school year, March 9, 2019.

Fairfax County Public Schools, Email on top 10 salaries for 2019-2020 school year, March 11, 2020.

Richmond Public Schools, "Superintendent Kamras announces new leadership team." 

Fox Business, "The 20 wealthiest counties in the U.S…," Dec. 18, 2019.

Payscale.com, Cost-of-living calculator, accessed March 23, 2020.

Salary.com, Cost-of-living calculator, accessed March 23, 2020.

 

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