Council votes to end merit raises for some county managers

The discretionary raises had been granted in addition to normal pay increases.

EVERETT — The Snohomish County Council voted Wednesday to stop allowing yearly raises in the fall for all managers in county government.

The council earlier ended the practice for its own staff.

“I’m not opposed to bringing back merit pay,” Councilman Brian Sullivan said earlier in the week, “but I think it should be a one-time bonus.”

The practice the council ended allowed independently elected officials, such as the auditor, prosecutor and sheriff, to award certain managers merit pay in September. It was a permanent raise, based on achievement and performance, rather than a bonus. It came on top of a potential raise that management-exempt employees are eligible to receive each April. County employees also receive cost-of-living adjustments.

The vote was 4-0, with Councilman Terry Ryan absent. The restriction is set to kick in Nov. 1.

Sullivan, who proposed the change, said some county managers were receiving annual raises of about 8 percent from the various pay bumps.

The move is part of an ongoing effort to keep finances in check, after the council passed a 2018 county budget with no new taxes to support general services. Ending merit pay isn’t a huge money-saver; Sullivan estimated it would reduce annual costs by $60,000.

The council in February passed restrictions on hiring for vacant management-exempt jobs. County Executive Dave Somers vetoed that restriction, but two days later the council overrode the veto.

In earlier hearings, some independently elected officials supported merit pay as a way to retain quality managers, especially given the job market.

A spokesman for Somers said the executive has not awarded fall merit pay to his managers since taking office in 2016.

Management-exempt county employees still will be eligible for step-increase promotions each April.

About 70 percent of the county budget last year paid for salaries, benefits and overtime.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@herald

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