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Island County officials to get pay raise after all, after budget director misses deadline

Island County elected officials will get a 5 percent pay increase next year after all.

County Budget Director Elaine Marlow said she missed a deadline, so there’s no way to prevent the salary hike from kicking in.

“It’s my fault,” Marlow said this week.

The automatic pay raise has been on the county’s radar since early 2009, when some suggested the county should revoke the raise in light of the county’s budget crisis.

The topic reemerged earlier this year, when Island County commissioners said they were planning to change the county code so that they and other county elected officials wouldn’t receive the automatic salary hikes. Former commissioners adopted the measure in August 1994 that gives elected officials a 5-percent pay raise each odd-numbered year.

With continuing budget deficits, the three commissioner said they couldn’t justify the increase in salaries. Commissioners will have to cut about $1.2 million from next year’s budget if voters don’t approve a proposed property tax levy rate lift this fall.

From 2008 to 2010, the commissioners cut $4.2 million from the current expense budget, which stands at about $21 million this year. More than 50, or about a third of the employees in departments covered by the current expense fund, were laid off. For those with jobs, cost-of-living increases were frozen and hours were cut.

Marlow said the county code regarding raises had to be changed before candidate filing week, which was last week. She said she didn’t realize it before it was too late.

Marlow pointed out that the elected officials could, of course, donate part of their salaries back to the county. The commissioners and Sheriff Mark Brown have previously made monetary gifts to the county.

The salaries of the elected officials, excluding the judges, are based on a percentage of the commissioners’ pay. The prosecuting attorney receives 135 percent of a commissioner’s salary and the sheriff earns 110 percent. The rest of the elected officials — the auditor, assessor, treasurer, clerk and coroner — receive 90 percent of a commissioner’s salary.

Commissioners currently make $78,496 a year.

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