The mayor and members of the Spokane City Council would receive a marginal raise in 2022 under a tentative plan approved on Tuesday.
Voicing respect for the workload of elected leaders, but wariness with the economy roiled by a pandemic, members of the Salary Review Commission decided to keep salaries flat in 2021 and offered a 2% raise in 2022.
The commission, an independent board tasked with setting the salary of the mayor and City Council every two years, will formally vote on the plan on Thursday. But the three-member board unanimously agreed to the compensation in principle during its meeting on Tuesday.
Commission members weighed whether the duties of a Spokane City Council member warrant a raise, or if the current salary is sufficient – especially given the economic fallout caused by the coronavirus.
“I’d like to see Spokane get back on their feet before we put more, additional responsibilities on the taxpayers to support the council,” said Dycelia Weiss, chair of the Salary Review Commission.
Members of the Spokane City Council are paid a salary of $46,700, while the council president – who oversees the council’s office operations and staff – is paid $62,000. Under the commission’s plan, those figures would increase in 2022 to $47,634 and $63,240 respectively.
The mayor earns a salary of $168,000, which would rise to $171,360 in 2022. In response to a questionnaire in advance of the Salary Review Commission’s analysis, Mayor Nadine Woodward did not ask for a raise and deferred to the commission’s judgment.
In their survey, several members of the Spokane City Council argued that higher pay is necessary to attract quality candidates to seek office.
Council members detailed how their job entails serving on 10 or more boards and committees, putting in 50 or more hours a week, and personally responding to constituent concerns – all on top of the weekly legislative meetings of the City Council.
“The citizens that elect us have very high expectations. They expect us to work hard and to spend tax dollars wisely,” Councilwoman Karen Stratton wrote. “This requires a full-time commitment and complete transparency.”
Commission members noted Tuesday that nowhere in the City Charter does it require the council to work full time, and that its members are not prohibited from taking on outside work. Each council member also has a full-time legislative assistant.
Although she acknowledged “the work is real,” commission member Linda McDermott also hesitated to give elected officials a raise.
“I personally didn’t feel any areas where we were totally out of alignment with other cities,” McDermott said.
Aside from members of the Seattle City Council, those who serve in Spokane are compensated relatively well – better than in any other city in Washington.
The city of Everett, which is about half the population of Spokane, also has a mayor-council form of government and pays its members $29,868. Tacoma is a similar size city to Spokane and its council members earn about the same – $44,990.40 – but its structure of government is different. Tacoma’s city manager-council system places more onus on the council to drive city government.
Council members last received a substantial raise in 2016, from $31,200 annually to $45,000.
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