Letter to the editor: Is the Edmonds City Council fairly compensated?


I am surprised by the Edmonds City Council reviewing the salary commission after just reinstating the Salary Commission Ordinance in 2016 for the 2017 and 2019 sessions; this was after disbanding it in 2014 after a long history of having one in place. In the end, the reason we have a salary commission is to have citizen input on what we pay our city council and mayor. I would think our city has more important issues at hand.

To review the Edmonds Salary Commission’s work in 2017 and 2019, I was chair and served with four other competent and knowledgeable citizens. Our review included over 21 comparable cities. In 2019 we increased this to include different positions such as the Port of Edmonds, Edmonds School District and health district, each of them paid less.

When we reviewed Edmonds City Council compensation compared to other immediate area cities, Lynnwood pays $10,800 a year and Shoreline $12,000, (Woodway $0), and Edmonds is currently $17,000 a year. Most the cities provide some medical benefits. The average of the 21 relevant similar cities we reviewed averaged $14,256 a year per council member. That places Edmonds on the higher end of the scale.

As to the equity issue, we reviewed this very issue from the point of view, is Edmonds paying a fair salary. One formula I personally offered for discussion purposes was paying 80% of the mayor’s salary and using a part-time percentage formula. It took the salary up to between $27,000 to $35,000 a year. Even with this amount, the question is if that alone would allow more citizens to run for office. It was agreed that this would not be acceptable to the public.

During the commission deliberations, I met with Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas several times. In one instance, I wanted to clarify a rumor, brought to us by the Acting HR Director, that the commission was looking at an issue beyond the scope of our authority. In that meeting, I explained that the commission was trying to identify and determine how much time councilmembers spend on city business. At no time did the council president mention equity compensation. She brought up most councilmembers are looking to serve the community, and it’s not about the salary. In the end, we could not find a well-documented answer, except in general mentioned in the city budget suggesting about 25 hours a week. Thus, in our 2019 findings, we included the recommendation to the council that they codify their responsibilities and job description. In testimony before the city council on Sept.17, 2019, this issue was discussed.

The full testimony is provided at the City of Edmonds website: (http://edmondswa.iqm2.com/Citizens/SplitView.aspx?Mode=Video&MeetingID=2946&Format=Minutes) (15:00-38:00). To note our commission’s comprehensive efforts among the councilmembers, Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas stated in part: “I just want to thank you for all the work you’ve done (commission), I know I have had multiple conversations with Mr Grant… I think this is the most thorough process I’ve seen since I have been on the council and must have taken countless hours …. and I want to thank you.”

Based on the standards Edmonds and other salary commission use, including the counties and state commissions, we concluded the Edmonds council members are reasonably paid based on the comparison with our immediate local communities and the average of the 21 comparative cities.

In our determination, we offered an increase to both the mayor and council both years. What is to be considered in the future lies with others. The number one issue identified in our citizen survey in 2019 was 72% thought city council accountability was the most crucial issue, not salaries.

I guess the real question is, do the citizens of Edmonds think councilmembers should be compensated beyond the norm, and to what amount: $30,000, 40,000, $50,000, $60,000 a year each? I have to surmise, based on the feedback we received, this is not the case. And should it be the Council or the citizen Salary Commission who makes those choices?

Jay Grant

Salary Commission Member 2000 – 2004
Salary Commission Chair 2017 – 2020

  1. Thank you Jay for the excellent summary of the work of the salary commission. I hope the City Council continues to place its trust this citizen (community volunteer) process of reviewing salaries, comparing to other cities, and gathering input from the public and the City Council itself. I see great benefit having a community panel reviewing Council and Mayor salaries and benefits rather than being solely in the hands of the City Council.

  2. Thank you Jay for the review of past processes for Council compensation. It certainly appears the Salary Commission members put a lot of time and thought into providing a fair and balanced process. I would agree that citizens, through the present commission process, should continue to be involved in the setting City salaries. To put that process in the hands of those that benefit makes no sense. Salary setting is based on those components the commission considered, not on “feel good” agendas. Do not change the process!

  3. I find it interesting that the elected people seem to want to do away with the one and only citizen commission who’s findings and recommendations are required to be acted upon by law. (Someone please correct me on that, if I’m wrong). Also interesting, that the Council seems to go back and forth on this issue so much, which doesn’t seem, to me, to be a signal of governmental health in our little village by the sea.

    1. It’s back and forth, up and down…and keeping all wondering while doing so.
      As we wonder, they apparently discuss how much money they intend to pay themselves. And how to keep all of us wondering while they and the mayor make decisions on their own.
      Like this? I don’t. Will it be allowed to continue? Probably, unless you all R or D say. No more.

      1. Thanks for the good, accurate information.
        I think paying our city council a fair modern wage is very important.
        An increase to 50 or 60 thousand annual salary will make a LOT more people run for office in the future. What does a 5th year teacher in Edmonds make annually? For working a bit over 9 months a year?
        The mayor’s salary should be bumped up a bit in the next term also.
        It wouldn’t hurt to reward the longer-termed employees at the city with a sound retirement package that would help retirees live a better life.
        Besides the Mayor…the city manger, attorney, Chief of police, etc.

  4. Informative letter. The recommendation to the council that they codify their responsibilities and job description is vital. Not clear how the automatic 4-3 votes based on maintaining partisan alliances takes but a few hours of work each week as the votes are mostly forgone. Who the heck know what is equity, other than being self defined?

  5. Thank Mr Grant for service as Chairman of the 2019 Salary Commission. The real reason this has become an issue is the City staff failed to advertise for the three vacant positions on the Salary Commission in March and April. Due this failure the Human Resources Director came up with the cover-up to advance legislation to change the code to a four year cycle.

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