News

Salary commission rethought by council

Members of the Oak Harbor City Council put off giving raises to future council members.

Tuesday, they were scheduled to adopt an ordinance that would have increased council salaries by $45 per monthto $495 a month, with a 3 percent cost-of-living increase for four years afterward.

Also, the proposed ordinance would have provided council with an extra $50 for each meeting a month in excess of three meetings a month, with a maximum reimbursement for 12 meetings a month.

Councilwoman Sue Karahalios, however, talked the council into reconsidering a salary commission. They previously discussed the option, but decided that they wanted to make the decision themselves by simply adopting an ordinance.

The problem with passing an ordinance, Karahalios said, is that the pay hikes aren’t implemented right away. The council can’t vote to raise their own salaries; the increases don’t go into effect until after the next elections.

Since council members aren’t all up for election in the same year, this would mean that some would be making more than others for the two-year, in-between period. Karahalios argued that the option would be inequitable.

Karahalios said she spoke with an official from Municipal Research and Services Center and realized that a salary commission would be a fairer way to set salaries. Under the option, a commission of up to five volunteer residents would decide the salary based on such considerations as comparisons with other organizations and workload.

The City Council would have the option of voting not to implement a recommendation from the salary commission, Karahalios said. The benefit of the system is that raises are implemented immediately after adoption, so that everyone will be making the same amount for the same work.

Council members and staff began talking about increasing the salaries last year, noting that the current council does more work and goes to more meetings than former councils.

The last time council approved a salary increase was in 1997, City Attorney Phil Bleyhl said.

City Administrator Thom Myers, however, has said council members’ salaries are already mid-ranged among cities of comparable sizes. Council members have the option of medical, dental and vision insurance through the city, which is unusual for elected officials in the state.

Councilman Danny Paggao said salary commissions seemed cumbersome. Councilman Larry Eaton said he had “real misgivings” about salary commissions.

“Only we know how much effort we put into everything,” he said.

In the end, the council passed, by a 5-2 vote, a motion to reconsider both a salary commission and an ordinance to raise salaries. Councilmen Eric Gerber and Paggao voted against it.

You can reach Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or 675-6611.

Community Events, April 2014

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