Coupeville Mayor Molly Hughes will get a large pay raise in 2017.
At their meeting last week, the Town Council approved doubling her salary, which they say acknowledges the full-time hours she’s been putting in.
Hughes’ new salary will be $72,000 a year plus benefits, making her the highest paid mayor of Washington cities of its size, according to data from the Association of Washington Cities.
She’s currently receiving $36,000 plus benefits for what’s considered a part-time position. Former Mayor Nancy Conard was making about $68,000 at the end of her 20-year tenure as mayor, but that salary compensated her for also serving as the town administrator.
The topic of the mayor’s salary was raised during a workshop in October. Councilwoman Diane Binder said it was the council that first came up with the idea of increasing the mayor’s salary.
“This did not come from the mayor,” Binder said. “We felt it was time she was paid for the work she was doing.”
Since taking office, Hughes said she works an average of 48 hours a week.
“This is understandable because of the learning curve I needed to go through, the projects that were left for me to finish, and most of all, because of the staff turnover we have experienced,” she said.
This year Hughes fired Planning Director Tammy Baraconi and hired current planner Owen Dennison. The town also saw turnover in the Marshal’s Office with Rick Norrie returning to the Island County Sheriff’s Office and Chris Garden assuming the role of marshal in September.
Also in September, Utilities Superintendent Willy LaRue resigned and the fiscal clerk quit.
The Town of Coupeville employs eight full-time and three part-time employees.
Hughes provided the council with a salary schedule for cities comparable to Coupeville from the Association of Washington Cities. The data compared cities’ population, number of employees and the salaries for its mayors and administrative staff.
Councilwoman Pat Powell said staffing and salaries has been something she’s paid attention to since joining the council.
“I’m so amazed with the quality of work,” she said.
When looking at the data provided, Powell said she zeroed in on three comparable cities that she felt were more similar to Coupeville than the others — Friday Harbor, Leavenworth and Langley.
She pointed out that the cities were similar to Coupeville in that they have historic districts or design review guidelines, some have waterfronts and all have a heavy tourism base.
“When I compared Coupeville to those, I was stunned,” Powell said, adding that Coupeville is getting a heck of a deal.
The Examiner, however, found errors in the comparables the town used in its salary study. Salaries weren’t accurate and in one instance two positions were listed with separate salaries when it was a single role with only one salary.
Friday Harbor has the highest administrative costs of all the comparable cities provided. With a 2016 general operating budget of $19 million, the town employs 34 full-time and two part-time employees and will spend roughly $305,000 in administrative salaries in 2016 for its mayor, town administrator, clerk and finance director/treasurer. The mayor is paid $12,000.
Leavenworth is working with an $11-million budget in 2016, employs 28 people and spends almost $200,000 for administrative staff for its mayor, administrator and clerk/treasurer. The mayor makes $18,000.
Neighboring Langley is the only other comparable city that has a mayor serving also in an administrative capacity. With a more than $6-million budget and 13 regular and two part-time employees, Langley will spend $137,500 on administrative staff for the mayor and finance director/clerk/treasurer position in 2016.
Langley’s mayor makes $55,000 and is in the office pretty much full time, said Debbie Mahler, director of finance and city clerk for the City of Langley.
Coupeville’s current 2016 budget sits at $4.5 million, the lowest of the four cities. Between the mayor’s salary and Clerk/Treasurer Kelly Beech’s salary, the town currently pays $108,000 for administration.
Coupeville’s administrative salary cost percentages are higher than the other three cities.
Towns either have a strong mayor or a weak mayor and a city administrator, Powell said.
Powell also said that, if you do the math, based on population, citizens currently pay $19 per person for the mayor and with the raise will only be paying $38 per person.
In exchange for this salary increase, Hughes said she agrees to hold full-time office hours — officially — and offer a variety of services she’s already been doing for the town. These include managing department heads, working with staff to set priorities, overseeing boards and commissions, writing grants, working with partnering agencies and working on town policies and procedures.
“If I don’t do them, they won’t get done,” Hughes said. “They’d have to hire someone to do them. I would rather do these tasks myself than hire another clerk or administrator.”
Budget: $4.5 million
($72,000 in 2017)
TOTAL ADMIN: $108,000 ($144,000) 2.5/3.4 percent
Employees: 8 FT/3 PT
Budget: $6.5 million
City Clerk/Treasurer: $82,500
Employees: 13 FT/2 PT
Budget: $11.7 million
City Administrator: $113,070
City Clerk/Treasurer (combined position): $81,407
TOTAL ADMIN: $194,477 1.6 percent
Employees: 28 regular
Budget: $19 million
Town Administrator: $134,640
Town Clerk: $66,464
Finance Dir./Treasurer: $92,330
TOTAL ADMIN: $305,434 1.6 percent
Employees: 34 FT/2 PT