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Council looks at own pay

City Salary Commission may regain authority over paychecks.

The City Council will consider reinstating some of the city Salary Commission’s authority tonight, including the ability to increase the pay of elected officials.

“This will put our house back in order,” said Council Chair Chris Snow.

In 2001, the commission was established and given broad authority to review and increase the salaries of the council and other elected officials.

In 2005, the commission recommended that council pay remain at $600 per month. Some on the council objected, arguing that pay hasn’t risen to match inflation or the positions’ growing demands.

Councilman Jim Llewellyn, who supported increasing pay by $400, was not successful in gaining council support for disbanding the commission on grounds that it had failed in its intended purpose of raising pay.

The council did, however, substantially revise the commission’s duties, making it able only to recommend salary changes. This then put authority over pay increases in the hands of the council. According to state law, however, such council-approved salary hikes cannot apply during the terms then being served by councilors.

“The council, I think, took away the authority (to set salaries) because it was annoyed and they said they could do better than the commission,” said Snow. “But what the council cobbled together was complicated and not likely to produce constructive results.”

A study of council salaries conducted by commission member Clarence Moriwaki in 2005 found a wide range of pay. In Mountlake Terrace, a city with a population comparable to Bainbridge’s 22,000, councilors earned $800 a month in 2002. Anacortes, population 15,000, also gave its councilors $800 a month. Mercer Island, on the other hand, doled out a monthly $100 stipend.

The council will discuss repealing changes made to the salary commission tonight at City Hall, starting at 7 p.m.

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