News

Study evaluates city council's paychecks

By JACINDA HOWARD, The Mirror

The price of the city council and mayor’s services to Federal Way is once again under consideration by the Independent Salary Commission.

The commission, a five-person citizen group, met March 6 to discuss whether the Federal Way City Council and mayor are receiving a fair market value for their roles within the community.

Every two years, the commission has the option of reviewing and adjusting the council members’ and mayor’s salaries and benefits. When needed, the salaries are adjusted as a whole and all council members receive the same pay, said Frank Marshall, chairman of the Independent Salary Commission.

“We are not dealing with independent salaries,” Marshall said. “We are setting a salary structure.”

Before determining if the officials are being paid fairly, the commission plans to evaluate the salaries of council members and mayors in 14 Washington cities with a similar population. Commission members will compare Federal Way to cities such as Auburn, Spokane Valley, Yakima and Kent, among others.

The roles and responsibilities of council members and mayors in those cities will also be weighed against those assigned to Federal Way’s officials.

Current compensation:

Six city council members currently receive a monthly salary of $1,550. Of this amount, $1,125 goes directly to the council member, while $425 is deposited into a VEBA medical expense plan.

The mayor gets $1,900 monthly and sees a total of $1,475 in payment and $425 in medical benefits. The salaries were set by the Independent Salary Commission and went into effect in July 2006.

“It’s very clear, in general, the bigger cities pay bigger salaries to the council,” Marshall said. “If anything, we’ve erred on the low side.”

Federal Way resident Nancy Combs spoke publicly at the meeting and expressed her extreme desire not to see increased salaries for city council members or the mayor. She asked members of the commission if they had friends in the city council and added it would be easy for any of them to reflect positively on the officials — and consequently choose to demand that taxpayers better compensate the council and mayor.

“Our guiding principles are to be fair to council members and citizens,” Marshall said.

The commission’s members are residents of Federal Way and do not want to see their taxes used inefficiently, commission member Adebola Adekoya told Combs.

“We try to be as objective as possible,” he said.

Human Resources director Mary McDougal explained the commission’s role. Members apply for a position, are appointed to their seats by the city manager and approved by the city council. Unlike the city’s other commissions, the group does not have to seek council approval of its final decision before increasing or decreasing their salaries.

Citizens disagreeing with the commission’s decision will have 30 days to speak publicly or file a referendum petition. If a petition is filed, the public decides by vote whether to support the commission’s choice.

Pursuant to state law, Independent Salary Commissions may be established to set city council members’ and the mayor’s salaries rather than allowing the governing bodies to set their own salaries. The city council chose to establish the commission in 2003.

“It provides a mechanism so there is an opportunity to set reasonable and fair salaries without a conflict of interest,” Marshall said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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Check it out:

The commission will next meet to further discuss the salary structure at 7 p.m. April 24 at City Hall, 33325 8th Ave. S.

The city council and mayor last received an increase in pay in 2006, when the Independent Salary Commission awarded council members $50 more per month and the mayor $100 more per month. Additionally, the medical contribution was increased by $50 for council members and the mayor.

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