News

City Council thinking of higher salaries

By ERICA JAHN

Staff writer

The Federal Way City Council is considering forming a commission responsible for reviewing elected city officials’ salaries and benefits and deciding when and whether to give them raises or pay cuts.

Council members are divided over the ordinance, which passed 4-3 Tuesday night to a second reading scheduled for the March 18 meeting.

Councilwoman Linda Kochmar said compensation is an issue the city shouldn’t ignore.

“Most in the community have to work,” she said. “To attract reasonably qualified people, you have to justly compensate them for their time.”

But council members Dean McColgan and Mary Gates disagreed, saying the pay should not be the reason citizens seek to serve on the council.

“You could never pay a council member enough,” Gates said. “We don’t want council members running for compensation.”

Councilman Eric Faison said the city eventually will have to address council member pay and it would be smart to have a sound process in place when that time comes.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate for the council to be controlling our salaries,” he said. “Compensation should be appropriate and I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to determine what should be appropriate.”

Under state law, cities are allowed to form commissions appointed by the mayor and approved by the council to review salaries and benefits. Commissions are to meet in April and May of every even-numbered year, and any salary adjustments must be adopted by May 31 of each session.

If the Federal Way council approves the measure to form the committee later this month, the commission would convene in 2003 and 2004, and then in every even-numbered year after that.

Commission members would serve four-year terms without compensation. New members would be appointed each March, and no member would be appointed to more than two terms — consecutive or not.

Following the commission’s May 31 decision, the city clerk would assign an ordinance number, and the salary increases or decreases would hold the force of law without final approval from Bthe council or mayor. Salary commission decisions can be overturned by a voter referendum.

Council members have made $750 a month and the mayor $900 a month for about 10 years. Council members don’t receive benefits.

If the ordinance passes at the next council meeting, officials will launch what will be a new selection process for the city. The city’s other commissions are appointed by the whole council — not just the mayor — so city officials will have to determine a method for recruiting applicants and taking applications.

Staff writer Erica Jahn: 925-5565, ejahn@fedwaymirror.com

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