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County OKs change in officials' monthly car stipends

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By Noah Haglund
Herald Writer
EVERETT -- The Snohomish County Council voted last week to expand the number of county officials eligible for a $569-per-month car stipend.
The council Wednesday added only the deputy executive to a list of 11 elected officials who can take monthly stipend to compensate for using a personal vehicle on the job, rather than getting reimbursed for miles traveled.
Deputy Executive Mark Ericks, however, said the intent was to include other well-traveled top managers besides himself. Ericks said he would return to the council seeking an amendment to grant the stipend to other department directors and top administrators.
"It's cheaper for us in the long run to pay a vehicle allowance than to pay the staff time for all the reimbursements that come in," Ericks said. "That was the theory behind it."
Supporting the motion Wednesday were Council Chairwoman Stephanie Wright along with Councilmen Dave Somers and John Koster. The other two council members were absent.
The council, that day, also raised the amount of the allowance to $569.32 in 2014 from the 2013 monthly rate of $547.65. The rate adjustments occur every year. They're based on a formula designed to gauge the cost of owning and operating a standard car from the county motor pool. Costs reflect fuel, insurance, depreciation and other factors.
Any official who claims the full rate for 2014 would get more than $6,800, on top of his or her salary.
Most eligible county officials have taken the maximum reimbursement so far in 2013, but not everyone. Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe and Clerk Sonya Kraski have claimed no vehicle expenses, according to county finance personnel.
"I've never taken it, but that's a personal choice on my part," Roe said. "Everybody who works for me, just like everybody who works at Boeing or Wal-Mart or Dick's, has to pay their own car expenses."
Roe said how he chooses to run the Prosecuting Attorney's Office should have no effect on the choices other elected officials make.
"I'm not being critical of people who do accept the allowance or put in for reimbursement," he said. "I know nothing about their finances so I'm not suggesting that what I do should have any impact on what anyone else does."
Roe's predecessor as prosecuting attorney, current Superior Court Judge Janice Ellis, also turned down the stipend.
The county sheriff gets to drive a police car instead of receiving the monthly stipend.
Elected officials in 2008 had been eligible for a vehicle reimbursement similar to the current rate. For the tight 2009 budget year, the council cut the amount roughly in half. By 2010, it was up to $475 and has edged up since then.
Non-elected county employees are eligible for mile-by-mile reimbursement based on federal rates.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465;
Story tags » Snohomish County government

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