County commissioners’ salaries, car allowances to go up

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Clark County commissioners will see their salaries increase next year, from $98,224 to $100,224, and will get a bigger monthly car allowance, too.

Currently, Commissioners Marc Boldt and Tom Mielke receive $500 a month, while Commissioner Steve Stuart, who did not get an increase the last time car allowances were raised, receives $400 a month. Starting in January, each commissioner will receive $600 a month.

Commissioners’ salaries are scheduled to increase to $102,224 in 2012. In 2009, Boldt and Mielke earned $96,224 and Stuart made $97,224.

Stuart said Tuesday he donated $1,000 to the Dream Big Community Center, so his 2009 salary would be equal to Boldt’s and Mielke’s.

The salary increases are part of a salary schedule that was adopted in 2008, when the board consisted of Betty Sue Morris, Boldt and Stuart.

State law prohibits commissioners from changing their own salaries mid-term.

“It doesn’t make sense for people to change their own salaries, so state law makes it very clear that you can’t adjust your salary during the term,” said Stuart, the board chairman.

The car allowance schedule was also adopted in 2008. In return for an allowance, commissioners are not assigned county-owned cars.

So, considering their allowances, what kinds of cars do the commissioners drive? Boldt said he drives a 1998 Cadillac Seville that he bought for $1,050 at an auction; Mielke, who owns nine cars including a Chevrolet El Camino, said he drives a 1997 Cadillac to work. Stuart said he owns a 2009 Mercury Mariner hybrid SUV. He said in two years, he’s logged approximately 40,000 miles, primarily for work.

The county administrator, assessor, auditor, clerk, prosecuting attorney, public works director, undersheriff and medical examiner all receive monthly car allowances of $400. (Sheriff Garry Lucas drives a county-owned unmarked police cruiser).

At the city of Vancouver, the city manager, police chief and two assistant police chiefs all receive monthly car allowances of $600.

A year ago, commissioners agreed to stop accepting a mileage reimbursement on top of a car allowance.

In defense of the increases, which come at a time when other county employees are having their salaries frozen, Stuart said commissioners did give up the mileage reimbursement and are saving money by not replacing a policy analyst who resigned this fall. The analyst used to report directly to the commissioners, and the work he did hasn’t gone away, Stuart said.

“We are doing more work,” Stuart said.

The total budget for the commissioners’ office has dropped 8 percent in the past four years, Stuart said, and the number of employees has dropped from 13 to 10.

“We are certainly doing more with less,” Stuart said.

The travel budget for the commissioners has been reduced from $58,900 in the 2007-08 budget to $36,300 in the recently adopted 2011-12 budget.

The county auditor, assessor, treasurer and clerk will also receive salary increases for 2011.

Those positions pay 95 percent of a commissioner’s salary, so the officials will earn $95,212.

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.