Port of Vancouver board won’t raise pay now

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

Published:

Updated: September 27, 2011, 5:20 PM

 

The Port of Vancouver’s three elected commissioners aren’t going to give themselves a pay raise for the work they do.

Instead, the part-time commissioners on Tuesday indicated they will adopt a policy allowing their pay to be adjusted by inflation every five years.

Commissioners did not vote on the matter, instead directing port administrators to draft a resolution proposing the change. The board is expected to vote on that resolution, which will follow new guidelines set in state law, during its regular public hearing on Oct. 11.

Commission President Brian Wolfe said he’s received six or seven emails from citizens since the board last discussed raising its pay and they’re “running­ way ahead” in opposing a pay increase.

Commissioner Jerry Oliver, who first raised the possibility of a pay raise in August, said he was “inclined to agree” and would instead favor asking staff to bring a resolution back to the board adjusting commissioner pay every five years according to inflation.

Noting the port is taking on a lot of debt and pursuing “a lot of big projects,” Commissioner Nancy Baker said, “I don’t think we need to go there for an increase.”

At issue was whether the commissioners’ current $500-per-month salary should be increased.

On top of their salaries, commissioners receive $104 for each day they conduct port business. They also receive medical, dental and vision benefits.

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. 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, these salaries are set according to the size of a port’s gross operating revenues. Since July, port commissions have had the option of linking their salaries to inflation with adjustments made every five years.

Otherwise, port commissions are allowed to set their own salaries.

That’s what a previous port board did in 1997, when it raised commissioners’ pay from $200 per month to $500 per month. That was the last time commissioners received a pay increase.

 When commissioners meet Oct. 11 they’re expected to end the policy begun in 1997 and instead allow pay bumps every five years based on the cost of inflation.

If commissioners had decided to set their own salaries, then the pay increase would not have taken effect until after the next election. That means that any boost in pay would have applied only to a re-elected commissioner or a new commissioner.

In this case, only Wolfe — who’s running unopposed this year for the only seat on the port’s three-member board that’s open for re-election — would have seen his pay increase in 2012.

The $104 per diem that Port of Vancouver commissioners receive for each day they conduct port business already 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