CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt and the West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA) announced they will honor the intent of the Legislature 5% across-the-board pay increase for all state employees. The Budget, passed by the Legislature, included additional general revenue dollars to cover the pay raise but only for employees paid out of general revenue funds. The WVDA funds 60% of its full-time employees (FTE) from general revenue and the other 40% from federal or special revenue dollars.
“Every time we promise an across the board pay raise, it hamstrings agencies like ours in two ways. First, it makes it harder to issue merit-base raises for positions that are woefully under paid. This hinders our ability to properly compensate and recruit highly competitive, technical positions. Second, it continues to stretch our budget thin as the raises are only partially funded,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt.
WVDA employees are “at will” and not under the guise of the Department of Administration. This allows for the Commissioner of Agriculture to manage and set the salaries of his/her employees as they see fit. Factoring out the effects of recent across-the-board increases and new programs, WVDA’s core General Revenue operating funds are roughly equal to that of FY 2007-2008. Without increasing the overall budget, the WVDA has worked to find cost savings in order to further develop programs and increase retention efforts over the last five years.
“Despite a lack of investment in agriculture and increased unfunded mandates, we have worked to increase compensation through cost savings and restructuring salaries. This includes reducing executive level salaries and avoiding top-heavy administrations seen by previous Commissioners,” said Leonhardt. “When my administration took over in 2017, we had 90 employees making under $30,000. Now, almost all of those are above that mark.”
The WVDA was short $278,834 to cover a 5% bump for all positions. Including the previous two pay raises, the WVDA has had to find an additional $865,612 to cover all the across-the-board pay raises.
For more information or questions, contact Crescent Gallagher at 304-380-3922 or email@example.com.
The West Virginia Department of Agriculture protects plant, animal and human health through a variety of scientific, regulatory and consumer protection programs. The Commissioner of Agriculture is one of six statewide elected officials who sits on the Board of Public Works.