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Aug. 13, 2022

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‘Stipend reset’ supported for Camas mayor, city council

Salary commission recommends raises for positions

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The Camas Salary Commission has recommended a “stipend reset” that would boost monthly payments to the city’s mayor and city council members by as much as 17 percent.

If approved by the Camas City Council in early December, the proposal would bump the mayor’s monthly stipend from $2,501 in 2021 to $2,750 in 2022, and stipends for Camas City Council members from $853 per month to $1,000 per month. The salary commission also recommended keeping the mayor’s vehicle allowance at $300, and increasing technology allowances from $75 to $100 (mayor) and $50 to $75 (city council).

Commission members first discussed the increases in October and held a public hearing on Nov. 8.

Commission member Allen Anderson said the final recommendation was “very much a compromise.”

Anderson added that members favored raising the monthly stipends even more to help attract a diverse pool of mayoral and city council candidates.

“What I see happening is that you have to be either independently wealthy or retired to hold the positions,” Anderson said. “I am in line for raising the mayor and city council (stipends) to higher amounts than we adjusted to.”

Anderson added the city’s 2021 stipends were low compared with other Washington cities that have comparable “strong mayor” systems, in which the mayor acts as the manager of city staff and is in charge of the city’s day-to-day operations.

“The rates we’re offering are low,” Anderson said. “We’re almost on the bottom. The amounts we agreed to raise the mayor and city council, but we’re still not at the top … what you see is a compromise, and I think it’s fair.”

Salary commission member Zach Goodman was unable to attend the commission’s Oct. 7 meeting, but reviewed the video and understood “the factors going into the recommendation.” But Goodman still felt the proposed increases were too high.

“Ten percent for mayor and 17 percent for council seems a little excessive,” Goodman said. “I appreciate the tireless dedication of the councilors and mayor … and understand the cost for everything is increasing, but to recognize the hard work of our public servants and do what’s best for taxpayers, I think a lower rate is necessary.”

Goodman later added that an increase closer to the 5.2 percent figure used by city staff to help determine employee cost-of-living increases would be a more appropriate recommendation.

“It’s good to keep our focus on using taxpayer money as best we can,” Goodman said, “and I think a lot of councilors … are not doing it for the money.”

“Given where we stack up with most of our peers … and looking at the form of government we have, where the mayor has more administrative duties than Washougal with their council-manager form of government, I went with (the recommended stipend increases),” Commission Chair Matt Ransom said. “I thought it was OK to do a reset, and (this brings Camas) in line with our peers across the state.”

Compared with other similar-sized Washington cities with a mayor-council form of government, Camas’ monthly stipend for the mayor was at the lower end. In Anacortes, for instance, the mayor’s monthly stipend is $9,652. In Mukilteo and Tukwila, the monthly mayoral stipends are $5,900 and $9,480, respectively. City council stipends are more in line with Camas’ throughout Washington cities with populations between 15,000 and 50,000 and mayor-council forms of government, with most council members earning between $565 (Lake Stevens) and $1,250 (Edmonds).

Commission member Sheila Schmid said last week that she believed the commission’s final stipend increases are fair.

“Regardless of how much money these people make, they’re actually stepping up and staying in these positions during this political climate, which I feel can be very degrading,” Schmid said of the city officials. “I’m comfortable with what we came up with. It’s not too much, not too little.”

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