In October the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors is slated to discuss an issue that will impact the fates of county workers: whether or not to adopt a paid parental leave policy upon the recommendation of the Library Board of Trustees.

For the past few months, the Library Board has been embroiled in a debate over what to do when one of their employees goes on maternity leave this fall. Though the library is separate from Rappahannock County, the county subsidizes the salaries of library employees — meaning that library employees receive the same benefits as county employees unless the library covers the costs of extra benefits.

At its July meeting, the Library Board expressed a desire to offer paid parental leave, but who would pay for it, the library, out of its endowment? Or the county, which had already accrued for the cost of the employee’s salary? The board decided it would be an inappropriate use of library endowment funds to cover a recurring cost such as an employee’s salary, so they were left with one alternative: asking the county to change its policy for all Rappahannock County employees.

In a 7-2 vote at their regular meeting on Aug. 17, trustees agreed on a resolution to recommend that the Board of Supervisors adopt a paid parental leave policy in accordance with the governor’s 2018 executive order granting eligible state employees eight weeks of paid parental leave. 

“The county is already looking at the person’s salary for the entire year,” said Board Chair Victoria Fortuna. “So it’s not any additional expense unless there’s a requirement to hire someone temporarily to fill that position . . . it’s a loss of savings, if you will.”

But County Administrator Garrey Curry and Board Treasurer Debbie Knick, who cast the two dissenting votes, reasoned that the cost to the county would, in fact, be too burdensome. 

“I’m not opposed to it in the future, I just don’t think we’re ready for it now,” Knick said. 

“Countywide, we are not ready for it . . . You’re asking the county to look at [paid parental leave] for all employees. So you’re asking the sheriff to look at it, which has the largest number of employees. . . . You are going to have to have a deputy on the road. You are going to have to have a dispatcher, you are going to have to have coverage. There is a cost associated with it.”

Next week, the Rappahannock News will explore what it would cost for the county to adopt a paid parental leave policy.

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