County’s elected officials get 1.5 percent raise

EVERETT — A citizens panel decided Wednesday to grant a dozen Snohomish County elected leaders a modest pay bump over the next two years, in an attempt to mirror the financial realities of other county workers.

The 1.5 percent increase is set to take effect Jan. 1. Under the adopted salary schedule, elected officials will receive the same increase again in 2014. That change matches the cost-of-living increase that most other county employees negotiated through collective bargaining.

“I think what we came up with and what I argued for is in line with what’s being asked of other county employees,” said Jason Redrup, a union representative from the International Association of Machinists. “It’s challenging to decide what politicians are going to make. I myself, being a worker, see what’s going on in our community, and I know that county employees have made a lot of sacrifices, so I have a tempered view of fairness.”

The Snohomish County Citizens’ Commission on Salaries of Elected Officials meets every other year. Its 10 members include a mix of appointed professionals with a background in personnel management and others selected randomly from voter rolls. Commissioners serve two-year terms.

Their decision affects the leaders who are ultimately answerable for assessing taxes, building roads, policing the streets and drafting laws: the county executive, the sheriff, the prosecuting attorney, the assessor, the auditor, the clerk, the treasurer and the five County Council members. To help with their job, commissioners are furnished with the latest consumer price index, pay information for the county workforce and salary comparisons for the region’s other elected leaders.

When commissioners last met, in 2010, they opted to keep salaries flat.

The current panel, meeting every other Wednesday since March 14, wrestled with how to make pay equitable.

Did that mean bringing salaries closer to places such as Pierce County, where elected leaders generally earn more money? Or did that mean keeping salaries flat for another two years, reflecting what some commissioners viewed as a stagnant overall economy? Would it have been better to recognize the great responsibilities that come with leadership, and give an incentive for the best people to seek those jobs?

On Wednesday, a 6-3 majority of commissioners concluded that equity meant pegging pay for elected leaders to what is happening for the bulk of the county workforce.

Under that adopted plan, County Council members are scheduled to get $104,320 in 2013 and $105,885 in 2014, up from $102,779 now. The council chairperson, who has extra responsibilities for running meetings and working on the county budget, receives an additional 10 percent.

County Executive Aaron Reardon is scheduled to receive $149,304 in 2013 and $151,544 in 2014, up from $147,098 now. Sheriff John Lovick is due to get $122,877 in 2013 and $124,720 in 2014, up from $121,061.37 now.

The only exception to the 1.5 pay increase was Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe, whose salary will be based on the $148,832 that the state’s salary commission has set for Superior Court judges. That number has stayed the same for the past two years, but could change after the state salary commission reconvenes next year.

The only member of the public who spoke at a hearing two weeks ago was Colleen Myers, a county employee who works in the court system.

“I would have preferred no increase at all at this time since the economy seems to be only crawling back rather than bouncing back,” Myers said. “I was also not in favor of an increase due to the fact that a good number of the elected officials whose salaries were discussed just ran for office last year (or in the case of council members, within the past few years) knowing what their salaries would be.”

The commission is scheduled to meet next in 2014.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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