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Oak Harbor City Council says no to cuts in pay, benefits

Members of the Oak Harbor City Council won’t be cutting their own benefits nor moving forward with a process to change elected officials’ salaries.

After last week’s council meeting, Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley said he wasn’t surprised his cost-cutting proposals got little traction from council members.

They feel “entitled,” Dudley said.

The mayor was alone in his assessment. The council and audience members argued that the current policies make good sense.

Attorney Chris Skinner pointed out that professional boxers and Lady Gaga make millions of dollars a year.

“We shouldn’t buy into the argument that people who are public servants somehow should be paid less or are valued less,” he said.

The council unanimously supported Councilman Rick Almberg’s motion that allows elected city officials to continue receiving health insurance, but precludes eligibility for a new, high-deductible health care plan.

Councilman Bob Severns was absent.

“Quite frankly, I think this last election said the community has confidence in the council and what we are doing,” Almberg said.

Staff members will bring back a resolution to the Dec. 3 meeting.

Council members also elected to take no action on Dudley’s proposals to review the salaries of elected officials.

Dudley proposed to either “repopulate” the salary commission or abolish the salary commission and set salaries by ordinance.

Dudley noted at the start of the discussion that a survey of Oak Harbor and 18 other Western Washington cities showed that only three provided some combination of health-care benefits to council members and mayors.

Providing health-care benefits to council members will cost the city $38,000 this year.

In addition, it will cost $15,000 for the mayor’s health insurance.

The mayor’s salary is just under $50,000, which Councilwoman Tara Hizon called “astronomical” for an official considered part-time. Annual salary for each council member is just over $7,000 a year.

Of the 26 cities in Oak Harbor’s “population class,” only three cities compensate the mayor at a higher level; nine of the cities compensate council members at a higher level than Oak Harbor does, according to the city’s agenda document.

If value of health-care benefits are factored in, documents show Oak Harbor council members who enroll in the city’s health insurance are among the most highly compensated when compared to similar-sized cities.

 

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