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Salary commission approves 4 percent raises for mayor, councilors

Decision represents a significant backpedal from dramatic raises given earlier this year

By , Columbian Education Reporter
Published: August 11, 2016, 9:49am

After months of heated debate and community input, the Vancouver Salary Review Commission approved incremental raises of 4 percent for the mayor and city councilors for the next two years.

The commission approved the raises by a vote of 3-1 on Wednesday, marking a significant backtrack from an April decision to hike the mayor’s salary by 117 percent and the city councilors’ salary by about 50 percent. Commissioner Thomas Hackett voted against the smaller raises, and Commissioner MarCine Miles was absent from the meeting.

“I think it shows that we have come a long way since this whole thing started and that we’re listening and compromise is achievable,” Commissioner Magan Reed said at Wednesday’s meeting. Reed initially voted in favor of the larger pay hikes, but supported the 4 percent raises.

The decision will increase the mayor’s annual pay from $27,600 to $28,704 beginning in January, and then to $29,582.16 the following year.

The mayor pro tem, a councilor who fills in when the mayor is unavailable, will receive a pay boost from $24,000 a year to $24,960 beginning next year, and $25,958.40 the following year.

City councilors’ pay will increase from $21,600 annually to $22,464 next year, then $23,362.56 in 2018.

‘A win-win’

The Salary Review Commission’s controversial decision this spring prompted two former Vancouver mayors to collect signatures calling for a repeal of the pay increases — an effort that succeeded after organizers collected 3,079 valid signatures.

Rather than send the matter to the voters, however, the Vancouver City Council voted to reject the wages in response, sending them back to the salary commission to start over.

Former Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard, who helped spearhead the repeal petition, said Thursday morning that he was pleased the commission approved smaller raises.

“It’s obvious that at least three of them realized they had to do something,” Pollard said. “In my view, this is a win-win for the community, the city council and the Salary Review Commission.”

Mayor Tim Leavitt, who originally testified in favor of higher pay hikes, commended the commissioners for “their work and their diligence.” Leavitt, who would have benefited from the 117 percent hike, has said the current pay scale discourages people who aren’t independently wealthy or retired from running for elected office.

“The compensation has to be equivalent and fair to the effort our citizens expect,” Leavitt said. “If the salary commission decided the 4 percent is appropriate in this time and place, then I’m accepting of that.”

Under Vancouver’s city manager form of government, City Manager Eric Holmes oversees the administrative duties. The mayor and city council set policy and represent the city on various boards and public events.

The seven-person Vancouver City Council unanimously voted to raise Holmes’ pay by 5.5 percent at its Aug. 1 meeting. The hike brings Holmes’ annual salary from $210,000 to $221,550.

According to a staff report, that raise reflects a 2 percent adjustment for inflation and a 3.5 percent increase for merit.

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