Snohomish city manager pay hike likely despite turmoil

SNOHOMISH — The City Council is likely tonight to raise City Manager Larry Bauman’s annual pay by 3 percent to $140,051, based on his performance in 2013.

That was a rocky year at Snohomish City Hall. Bauman led the city through a headline-generating dispute between officials and homeowners who had been billed for development fees incurred before they moved in — and the council eventually sided with the homeowners.

“We were between a rock and a hard place,” Mayor Karen Guzak said. “Larry’s decision was to follow the law.” Bauman handled the situation as best he could, she said.

The council, Guzak said, eventually decided to go against legal advice and take the side of the homeowners. State auditors may issue negative findings, she said.

The council earlier this month reviewed Bauman’s job performance. Bauman, who has held the post for 12 years, said it did not call for improvements.

Last year, Bauman got a 7.5 percent raise. His pay was increased 2 percent the previous year. He did not get a raise from 2009 until 2012. In addition to his salary, Bauman receives $500 a month for car expenses.

“All of us agree, he’s doing an outstanding job,” the mayor said.

Until last December, Snohomish administrators had insisted that the city needed to charge the homeowners thousands of dollars in fees that the building department failed to collect when their houses in the Denny and Kendall development were built.

Bauman told frustrated homeowners that the city was legally obligated to collect the unpaid bills, totaling $112,239. The council changed course when it decided not to hold the homeowners responsible for the city’s mistake.

State auditors in 2009 noted problems with Snohomish’s permit fee collection. The office recommended that the city implement better internal controls in its building department in 2010. However, the state did not issue a written finding.

Documents previewing tonight’s meeting say the 3 percent salary increase is necessary to retain Bauman and remain competitive with the local labor market. Guzak said the council looked at other cities for comparison in considering Bauman’s pay.

“His is certainly not the top or the bottom,” she said. “But we feel we have a top city manager who’s doing a really great job for us.”

Lake Stevens has about three times the population of Snohomish’s 9,200. In Lake Stevens, the city administrator earns $137,880 with an additional $300 a month for a car allowance to run a city of 29,100.

Meanwhile, Mill Creek, which has about twice the population of Snohomish, pays its city manager $144,200. The city manager there also receives $300 a month for a car allowance.

Monroe, with a population of 17,500, pays its city administrator $125,688 a year. Monroe provides the administrator with a car to use for city business.

Bauman does not get cost-of-living increases as do other city staff members. If approved, his salary would increase on July 1.

The council is set to consider the raise at its meeting at 7 tonight in the boardroom at 1601 Avenue D.

Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; anile@heraldnet.com.

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