The looming $10 million deficit facing the city of Spokane for 2011 probably won’t get worse from City Council pay.
The Spokane Salary Review Commission is recommending a freeze in City Council salaries. The five-member commission voted unanimously earlier this year in favor of a freeze, but it is holding a public hearing on Wednesday to accept more public opinion on the matter.
“The commission was very much aware of the economic times,” said Chairman Hal Ellis.
In 2008 — the first year the commission met — the body increased City Council pay from $18,000 to $30,000 a year. It was the first increase since 1991. Pay for City Council President Joe Shogan increased from $40,000 to $55,000 a year.
The 2008 pay boost was approved in hopes of attracting more candidates, Ellis said. This year, the commission met with current and former elected city officials. Ellis said there was “no compelling feeling” that council members are “grossly underpaid.”
But Ellis believes the previous increase had the desired effect.
“A couple council members mentioned that by raising the salary that it did encourage them to file and run,” Ellis said.
Ellis said the commission could change its mind if its swayed by public opinion. Otherwise, the commission’s earlier vote will stand unless citizens collect enough signatures to put the decision on the November ballot. Ellis said the commission does not have the ability to lower council pay.