Vancouver council, mayor will get no raises

Citizen committee keeps 2014 salaries at 2008 level

By Andrea Damewood, Columbian staff writer

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In 2014, Vancouver city councilors will make the same salaries they did in 2008, as a citizens group voted to not raise the seven elected officials' salaries for the next two years.

Just as it did in 2010, the Vancouver Salary Commission voted to keep the part-time elected officials' pay right where it is.

The commission's five citizen members meet every two years to evaluate the mayor and council's pay, based on population, comparable salaries, testimony and other factors.

Mayor Tim Leavitt will continue to earn $2,200 a month; Mayor Pro Tempore Larry Smith gets $2,000; and the rest of the council is paid $1,781 for their public service positions.

City council members also have the option to draw city health insurance, and they must pay 15 percent of the cost of their dependents' premiums.

Five of Vancouver's seven city council members provided oral or written testimony. Three, councilors Jeanne Stewart, Bart Hansen and Bill Turlay, asked for no salary increase.

Hansen did it in one line to the committee: "No raise this year."

But Mayor Pro Tem Larry Smith and Mayor Tim Leavitt did advocate for increases in their salaries, although they were not specific about an amount.

Smith said that a raise in 2014, perhaps tied to inflation, may be prudent.

Leavitt, however, said that both the mayor and mayor pro tem jobs are more time-consuming than those of the council, and that those jobs should be paid more. He said that the expectation is that a mayor works full time, but as a middle class professional, Leavitt said he has to keep his day job as a senior civil engineer with PBS Engineering + Environmental in Vancouver.

"I haven't had one person say to me that they think the compensation of mayor's position is acceptable and fair," Leavitt said.

He said he has no interest in reviving his call to make the mayor a full-time job, as he did shortly after his 2009 election.

"There's not an expectation of mine that I would make a living being the mayor of Vancouver,"

Leavitt said. "There needs to be a reality check that the current level of compensation is highly inadequate for the level of the responsibility."

The mayor said he works as close to 40 hours a week at his day job as he can, and then spends well over 20 hours a week attending events, plus more than eight hours a week on research and preparing for meetings.

And even though she didn't ask for a raise this time around, Stewart also noted those time demands, saying she's often out the door at 6:30 a.m. and returning at 9 p.m., and has not had two days off in a row for several months.

"She said that the salary is not enough for an intelligent, thinking, hardworking person, but that it never would be," Salary Review Commission Meeting minutes from March 22 read. "She said that it would be offensive to some citizens if salaries were increased and she was worried about the public response, stating that the city is in a transition working through some tough stuff."

Voters approved a change in the city's charter in 1994 to create the Salary Review Commission.

The council cannot change the decision of the citizens' review commission, which was made on March 22. The only way the decision can be changed is for Vancouver residents to put the issue before voters through the referendum process, which requires signatures equal to 10 percent of voters in the last city election.

Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542; http://twitter.com/col_cityhall;andrea.damewood@columbian.com.