Arlington seeks help on elected officials pay

ARLINGTON — The city is looking for five volunteers to decide how much their mayor and City Council should get paid.

The Arlington City Council voted on Jan. 20 to form a salary commission tasked with making sure paychecks meet “realistic standards so that elected officials of the city may be paid according to the duties of their offices, and so that citizens of the highest quality may be attracted to public service,” according to the ordinance that establishes the new board.

Commissioners must live in Arlington, be registered voters and be at least 21 years old. They’ll be appointed by the mayor and approved by the council. City officials, public employees and their immediate family cannot serve on the commission.

The group is required to submit recommended salaries by the first Monday in May on odd-numbered years. Raises can’t be retroactive and cuts must take effect between elected officials’ terms.

People can apply to serve on the board online at www.arlingtonwa.gov or at city hall, 238 North Olympic Ave.

City code sets current salaries. Councilmembers make $200 per meeting, capped at $400 per month. The mayor makes $1,500 per month. They also get $50 for other meetings at which they represent the city, such as on state or county boards and at city-sponsored events. Those payments are capped at eight meetings a month for council members and 20 meetings a month for the mayor.

The 2014 and 2015 city budgets each include $67,200 in wages for the seven-person council. The mayor’s paycheck is accounted for in a separate section of the budget, among a six-person executive department that also includes the city administrator and clerk.

The council started talking about a salary commission last year, city councilwoman Debora Nelson said. It’s been at least 10 years since citizens reviewed the paychecks of the people they elected, and Arlington has been working on studies of its departments to learn what could make the city run smoother.

“We felt that this is part of that,” Nelson said. “Either way, whether the salaries should go up or down, the commission decides.”

It gives more people an active role in government, said Nelson, who has been on the council for three years.

“I would really like to see a variety of people, maybe citizens who haven’t served on a commission before, be part of this,” she said.

Other Snohomish County cities with salary commissions include Lake Stevens, Marysville and Everett. Lake Stevens is a place Arlington looks to for comparisons and research because it’s a similar-sized city in the same county, Nelson said.

Lake Stevens set up its salary commission in September 2014 to review a $1,200 monthly salary for the mayor and $300 a month, plus $50 per meeting, for city council members.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

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