Port of Vancouver commissioners consider pay increase

Board will review issue at Sept. 27 public hearing; no formal proposal made

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian Port & Economy Reporter

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The Port of Vancouver’s three elected commissioners are considering whether they should be paid more for the work they do.

If the part-time commissioners approve a pay increase, it wouldn’t take effect until after the next election. That means any boost in pay would apply only to a re-elected commissioner or a new commissioner.

Commissioners receive $500 a month and, on top of that, $104 for each day they conduct port business. They also receive medical, dental and vision benefits. By contrast, Vancouver city council members, who serve four-year terms, receive an annual salary of $21,372. As of two years ago, Mayor Tim Leavitt received $26,640 annually.

At issue is whether commissioners’ $500-per-month salary should be increased.

There is no formal proposal. Commissioners agreed on Tuesday to further review the matter during their regular public hearing on Sept. 27.

“We need to have more discussion about it,” said Commissioner Nancy Baker.

Any final decision isn’t expected until late October.

The commission first discussed the possibility of a pay raise in August, when Commissioner Jerry Oliver raised the issue.

Port Executive Director Larry Paulson said the issue came up because the commissioners’ workload and time commitment have increased as the port has taken on bigger and more complicated projects.

“They haven’t committed to this,” Paulson said of the pay-raise issue. “They’re merely exploring the possibility, and they want to do it in an open fashion.”

Commissioners are asking for public input, which can be submitted to povcommissioners@portvanusa.com.

The last pay raise for the port’s Board of Commissioners was in 1997. It went from $200 per month to $500 per month. At that time, the port’s operating revenues were $10.7 million. Today, the port’s operating revenues are $31.3 million.

In Washington state, port commission salaries range from as low as $200 per month to as high as $800 per month.

Port commissioners in Pasco are the only ones in the state who receive $800 per month, according to information gathered by the Port of Vancouver.

The port commissions in Seattle, Tacoma and Longview all receive the same salary that Vancouver’s port commission gets: $500 per month.

Under state law, port commission salaries are set according to the size of a port as defined by its gross operating revenues.

Salaries are adjusted for inflation every five years. However, if a port’s board of commissioners decides to set its own salary, which is allowed under state law, the amount is not adjusted for inflation.

The $104 per diem that Port of Vancouver commissioners receive for each day they conduct port business is adjusted for inflation every five years. Under state law, commissioners are not allowed to exceed $12,535 in per diem compensation in a year.

Vancouver’s port commissioners serve six-year terms and oversee the budget and policies of a port taxing district encompassing 300,000 property owners.

Aaron Corvin: http://twitter.com/col_econ; http://on.fb.me/AaronCorvin; 360-735-4518; aaron.corvin@columbian.com