Council re-establishes salary commission; receives recognition for 5 Corners roundabout

More than two years after voting 4-3 to disband a citizens commission that set compensation of city elected officials, the Edmonds City Council Tuesday night voted to reestablish another such body to take an independent look at current city council and mayoral salaries.

The issue of salary increases was initially raised during the Sept. 20 council meeting, but councilmembers agreed that more information was needed before any decisions could be made. On Tuesday night, the council heard a presentation from legislative assistant Andrew Pierce, who compared mayor and councilmember salaries in Edmonds with four other comparable Puget Sound cities: Marysville, Redmond, Lynnwood and Bremerton.

All were within a similar population range to Edmonds and all — like Edmonds — had a “strong mayor” form of government.  According to Pierce’s research, the Edmonds mayor’s monthly salary of $9,622.84 sits in the middle of the five cities — under Redmond’s $11,416.66 and Marysville’s $10,659.93 but above Bremerton at $8,917 and Lynnwood at $8,577. The mayor’s benefits package was lower in Edmonds than the other four cities.

City councilmember salaries had Edmonds toward the top of the list — Edmonds councilmembers overall receive $1,000 a month, the same as Redmond and Bremerton; but the Edmonds council president with a monthly salary of $1,200 earns more than those of the other four cities.

After some discussion, Councilmember Diane Buckshnis moved that City Attorney Jeff Taraday create an ordinance to establish a citizens salary commission. Buckshnis suggested that the council appoint the commission members, but Taraday noted that state law requires the mayor to appoint the members, which must then be confirmed by the council.

Some councilmembers said while they were supportive of appointing a salary commission to do long-term work, they wanted to ensure that Earling received a raise as part of the City’s 2017 budget, noting he had not had a salary hike since a cost of living increase in 2012. Buckshnis also suggested that that Earling receive a 5 percent raise during the current 2017 budgetary process while the commission does its work for the 2018 budget cycle.

The council unanimously approved Buckshnis’ motion regarding creation of a salary commission, with the expectation that the mayor’s salary increase will be considered as part of upcoming 2017 budget discussions.

Other council action on Tuesday included:

– Receiving the Washington State Department of Transportation 2016 Award of Excellence for the Five Corners Roundabout Project.

On hand for the WSDOT Award of Excellence award for the 5 Corners Roundabout Project were, from left, Public Works Director Phil Williams, Mayor Dave Earling, Capital Projects Manager Jaime Hawkins, City Engineer Rob English, WSDOT’s Local Programs Director Kathleen Davis, Federal Highway Administration Division Administrator Dan Mathis and Transportation Engineer Bertrand Haus.

–  Approving, following a public hearing, staff preparation of a resolution regarding an application from Westgate Chapel requesting vacation of approximately 375 feet of right-of-way on 92nd Avenue West located adjacent to church property along Edmonds Way

– Moving to next week’s consent agenda, the city’s draft 2017-2022 Capital Facilities Plan/Capital Improvement Program and a proposed increase in traffic impact fees charged to developers of new construction to mitigate traffic impacts those projects will cause

The Capital Facilities Plan, updated annually, identifies capital projects for at least the next six years that support the city’s Comprehensive Plan. It contains a list of projects aimed at accommodating the city’s projected population growth in accordance with the Growth Management Act. The Capital Improvement Program is a budgeting tool that includes capital and maintenance projects, tying those projects to the various city funds and revenues.

Regarding traffic impact fees, the council approved an increase from $1,050 per trip to $5,530 per trip, after staff recommended that the increase would better offsets the cost of traffic congestion generated by development. The increase would be phased in over three years. Developers who provide affordable housing would be eligible for an up-to-80-percent reduction in these fees.

– Receiving the last of the city’s department-specific presentations on the 2017 budget. Among the budget requests submitted:

– Police Chief Al Compaan requested $23,607 for a police radio antenna/repeater in the city’s Public Safety Building to resolve “dead zones” there; $78,018 for a police staff assistant to help with increased volume of public records requests; $134,644 for a police school resource officer, shared with the Edmonds School District, for assignment at Edmonds-Woodway High School. The budget amount also includes the city’s contribution to a vehicle; $41,500 to replace a SWAT transport vehicle.

– City Clerk Scott Passey requested $9,500 for a web-based public records software module that will allow the public to fill out public records requests online and will also enable the public to see the records requests made by other users.-

– Under nondepartmental expenses, Finance Director Scott James noted that the city has not yet received a bill from Fire District 1 for 2016 fire and emergency medical services, but estimates the city will pay fire district $8,327,000 for services, which includes a retroactive payment of $802,000. The 2017 proposed city budget includes a base payment of $7,713,000 for Fire District 1 plus a 2.5 percent increase for services.

In honor of Election Day, next week’s council meeting will be moved from Tuesday, Nov. 8 to Monday, Nov. 7.

— By Teresa Wippel

  1. The name of the commission that will develop salaries and benefits needs to be “compensation committee”.

  2. Congratulations to the Mayor and Staff for the award on the 5 Corners Roundabout Project. I have seen some minor grousing still left over about the changes, but my own driving experience confirms this is a much more elegant solution for traffic than the totally baffling 5-way (whose turn is it now?) stop. Today there are rarely lines of cars backed up at this intersection, even at rush hour, and most times of the day drivers don’t even need to stop before proceeding through it.

    Good plan, great results, well deserved recognition!

  3. I reiterate; the raising of traffic impact fees will do NOTHING to alleviate the lack of parking intensified by city population growth and building projects.

  4. I was proud to be a member of the last Compensation Committee. Also on the committee were at least three retired Human Resource executives from the public and private sectors.

    We conducted an extremely thorough analysis of how the current compensation (salary, healthcare coverage, other benefits) for the positions of Edmonds’ mayor and council members compared with similar cities (Western Washington, population, mayoral structure, etc). Sound familiar?

    After many meetings, discussion and research, we made a thorough presentation to the city council; recommending a modest increase in the salary for the position of mayor. Based upon all our due diligence, we could not justify a change to the compensation for council members. Sound familiar?

    It was clear that many on the council did not agree with our recommendations and when they realized that the commission’s findings were binding, they looked for a way to disband the commission. They found a legal loophole that they could use and they eliminated the Compensation Committee.

    Fast forward two years and the council has charged a third party to review compensation. After reviewing data from comparative local cities, the findings support (1) a modest raise for the mayor, and (2) no raise for the council members. The only change (that I can discern) is that the council now feels strongly that the mayor deserves a pay raise “noting he had not had a salary hike since a cost of living increase in 2012.” Am I the only one experiencing deja vu!

    Interesting that this new analysis highlights that current compensation for council members is toward the top of the list of comparative cities, and the compensation for the council president beats all the other cities. During our presentation in 2014, many on the council were quite vocal about their dissatisfction with their compensation. While our commission was sympathetic (council member compensation in all cities was extremely out of alignment with the workload and responsibilities) it was not within our charge to reinvent council compensation.

    It is important to keep compensation competitive with other similar cities. And I support a process to reinvent compensation for council members that is more reflective of the work and responsibilities required to be an effective citizen’s representative. It is also important that this process be conducted independently and that the results be binding. It is not good government to establish a complete and fair process but then thwart the results just because you don’t like the outcome.

    Will history repeat itself again?

    1. Excellent recap, Mike! It should also be noted that at least two councilmembers who voted two years ago to abolish the Compensation Committee remain on the city council.

  5. Mike, thanks for that history. It was an incredible and frankly outrageous decision by the Council. I am impressed currently that our elected officials who knew both the compensation and benefits packages offered when they ran for their offices want to decide to raise the compensation. The notion that the Mayor’s compensation will be raised on the notion that a corporate CEO makes more than the Mayor so the Mayor should get a raise is exactly why the compensation should be determined by an independent commission of experts. It doesn’t sound like that is what is being considered. Thanks again for reminding folks of the history.

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