News

Council getting raises whether wanted or not

By ERICA JAHN

Staff writer

Federal Way City Council members will be getting a 30 percent raise and the mayor a 65 percent rise starting next year.

An independent salary commission created early this year to review council member pay decided Wednesday that, starting in 2003, council members will make $1,075 a month ($12,900 a year) and the mayor will make $1,375 ($16,500 annually).

State law grants the commission’s recommendations the authority of law without mayoral or council approval, but they are subject to being overturned by voter referendum. The council won’t vote to approve the salary commissions’ recommendations.

Council members serve in a non-partisan, at-large capacity for four-year terms. They are considered part-time city employees and currently receive $750 a month in compensation. The mayor, a largely ceremonial post held by a council member appointed by the council, now receives $900 a month. Council members do not receive benefits.

Frank Marshall, chairman of the salary commission, said its members agreed to set council pay at 40 percent of the regional average, meaning 60 percent of the comparable cities’ councils will make more than Federal Way council members and 40 percent will make the same amount or less.

He said the commission approached the council and mayor salary review task with a two-pronged mission: To be fair to the mayor and the council and to be accountable to taxpayers, particularly in light of current economic conditions.

The commission looked at comparable cities — those with similar forms of government and with close population numbers — to see how much other communities were paying their city officials.

Examination of those cities, which included Bellevue, Kent, Renton, Lakewood and Yakima, led the commission to raise council and mayor salaries.

Marshal said the commission also considered that Federal Way council members haven’t had a pay review or increase since the city’s incorporation 11 years ago, though their jobs and responsibilities have grown along with the city, which now has a population of more than 83,000.

The commission decided this time around not to provide benefits for council members, though Marshall said almost all cities do provide health and medical benefits. Time was the main factor leading the commission to forego a benefits decision this year.

“We didn’t feel we had time to come up with a benefits package,” Marshall said.

Commission members were appointed by Mayor Jeanne Burbidge to serve staggered terms of one to four years. Future members will serve four-year terms.

The commission met through April and May this year and will meet again in April and May next year and during every even-numbered year thereafter to review mayoral and council salaries and to raise or lower them. Recommendations must be made by May 31 of each of the commissions’ salary review sessions.

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

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