During the third Airway Heights City Council meeting in which the issue was raised, council members Monday hashed out details of a proposed pay raise for future city leaders in a public hearing. The last time a raise was proposed in the city was 2005, although it was rejected at the time.
The proposal, which has also been discussed in three committees, increases monthly compensation for the mayor from $500 to $2,000, the deputy mayor from $300 to $750 and council members from $300 to $500. This will bring the salaries nearly in line with top paid officials in Washington cities of similar size and will be roughly equivalent to the current minimum wage, said Mayor Matthew Pederson.
Pederson said the pay increases would not go into effect until the next voting cycle but would reflect the growth of the city and give just compensation for the increased workload experienced by the current council. He credited the council with helping bring prosperity to the city, saying that many recent increases in progress are “a direct reflection of the time invested by elected officials.”
Some council members expressed their initial hesitation over the raises in such a bleak economic climate, but said they were convinced of the need for increased compensation after giving the matter weeks of thought. All council members seemed to agree that public service should never be performed with reward as the primary goal, but the sacrifices of working individuals with families should be recognized.
“No elected position should ever be about making money,” Pederson said. “But to do this you must be able to be engaged. The nature of this business puts a high strain on council members.”
In the end, the council agreed to a first reading of an ordinance for a change in mayor and council compensation. It also called for a special session Tuesday at 7 p.m. in order to resolve the matter before anyone considering running for election must register, in early June.
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