April 10, 2014 in City

Spokane City Council would get 4 percent pay raise under proposal

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Hearing today

A public hearing is set for 4 p.m. today in the Council Briefing Center to take testimony on a tentative plan to hike Spokane City Council pay 4 percent next year.

Spokane City Council members may be in for a pay raise.

A tentative plan by the city’s Salary Review Commission calls for a 4 percent bump, which would be the first increase since 2008.

Council President Ben Stuckart’s annual pay would climb to $57,200 under the plan, while council member salaries would increase to $31,200 a year. All are eligible for city health care benefits, a $1,800 per year auto allowance and a $540 per year cellphone allowance.

The five-member commission is hosting a public hearing at 4 p.m. today in the Council Briefing Center at Spokane City Hall to take testimony before drafting its final proposal. Any raises it approves would take effect in January.

“Part of our discussion was looking at the last time the council had a raise,” said Chairwoman Debby Kurbitz, noting that salaries won’t be considered again until 2016 and that the commission wants to avoid the kind of lengthy stretches the council has gone through in the past without any pay increases. “We want to make sure the positions attract people to run who bring a depth of experience.”

Kurbitz said the makeup of the current council demonstrates that the positions are drawing the kind of breadth and diversity of life experiences needed. The challenge for the commission is to find the right balance that continues encouraging a healthy mix of people willing to take on leadership roles.

In arriving at its draft proposal, commission members compared compensation levels at other Washington cities and met with Spokane council members to learn more about the demands of the job.

This year, because of concerns over increasing workloads, each council member was provided with a full-time assistant. The assistants previously had been half-time positions.

City Council positions are considered part-time posts, though several current council members treat it as their primary job. The council president is paid more because the position is considered more demanding.

Overall, Spokane City Council members are the third-highest paid in the state, according to an Association of Washington Cities survey of 2013 pay rates.

The highest paid, by far, are Seattle City Council members: $119,976 a year.

Pay rates drop substantially after that.

Tacoma edged into second place with $41,268 a year, which is ahead of Spokane’s current rate of $30,000 a year.

In Spokane, the state’s second-largest city, control over council pay is given to the all-volunteer Salary Review Commission. The last time the commission increased pay was six years ago, when compensation rose to the current $30,000 a year from $18,000 annually and marked the first increase since 1991. The council president’s salary climbed to $55,000 in 2008, up from $40,000.

Spokane Mayor David Condon’s salary climbs automatically under Spokane’s city charter to at least match the highest-paid city employee, which traditionally is the fire chief.

As a result, the gap in mayoral pay between Seattle and Spokane is far less noticeable.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is paid about $180,000 a year, according to the survey, while Condon is paid about $170,000 annually. The third-highest-paid mayor was in Everett, which pays about $160,000 a year.


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