High Cost Of Living

By: Elizabeth Donatelli
By: Elizabeth Donatelli

November 27, 2006

Forbes magazine ranked the top celebrities and how much they are worth in 2006. Tom Cruise has the power ranking of number one, worth $67 million. Salary.com shows a local computer operations manager gets between $50,000 and $100,000. Albemarle County police get paid less. They start at $32,723.

"The lower end of the salary like that makes it very difficult to live inside of Albemarle County due to the high cost of living," said Ofc. Jonathan Hickory of the Albemarle County Police Department.

Ofc. Hickory has worked for the Albemarle County Police Department for the last three years. He and his wife bought a house in Fluvanna County because they couldn't afford one in Albemarle.

"It would help me to live closer to work and have that closer connection, vested personal interest, in the community that I'm actually living in," said Hickory.

The Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors reports the median housing cost in Albemarle is $309,000 for the 3rd quarter, which means buying for a police officer won't be easy.

"If the household income is $32,000 it's going to be tough," said Ronnie White, Chief of Housing in Albemarle County.

But the County does offer education counseling with the home buyers club and a down payment assistance program serving households with incomes under $58,000.

"Our program tries to fill that gap between what the family can afford on a mortgage and what the purchase price on the house is," said White.

Albemarle police starting salaries went up about $4,000 two years ago, but another major increase isn't expected for next year.

"I would like to pay our police officers more, I would like to pay our fire more, I would like to pay our teachers more, but the fact is that we are limited to the revenues that we take in from taxes," said Board of Supervisors Chair Dennis Rooker. "Everybody likes better services, nobody wants to pay more in the way of taxes."

"There's no way the county is going to be able to every pay any police officer what some might think we may deserve to make, but at least bring our salaries up to more competitive levels with other central Virginia agencies of similar size," said Hickory.

The starting salary at many nearby Sheriff's Offices is several thousand dollars more--but the Sheriff's Offices gets a stipend from the state that the Police Departments don't.

The Charlottesville/Albemarle area averages at $269,000, while Fluvanna tops Greene, Louisa, and Nelson Counties, reports the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors for the 3rd quarter.

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