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Commission approves 25 percent pay raise for Olympia’s elected officials

The Olympia City Council shown on Sept. 19, 2017. From left: Councilwoman Julie Hankins, Councilwoman Jessica Bateman, Mayor Pro-tempore Nathaniel Jones, Mayor Cheryl Selby, Councilwoman Jeannine Roe, Councilman Clark Gilman. Councilman Jim Cooper was absent from the meeting.
The Olympia City Council shown on Sept. 19, 2017. From left: Councilwoman Julie Hankins, Councilwoman Jessica Bateman, Mayor Pro-tempore Nathaniel Jones, Mayor Cheryl Selby, Councilwoman Jeannine Roe, Councilman Clark Gilman. Councilman Jim Cooper was absent from the meeting. adickson@theolympian.com

Olympia’s independent salary commission officially approved a pay raise of about 25 percent for the city’s elected officials at a Tuesday night meeting.

The pay increase takes into account cost-of-living increases that other city employees have received for the past several years, in addition to the amount of work the elected officials put in, said Commission Chair Stephen Langer.

The mayor, mayor pro-tempore and council members haven’t seen any kind of pay increase since 2008.

“We’re simply making up for a lack of salary increase that other city employees were getting since 2008,” Langer said.

“Now, we’re righting something that, in my opinion, was not done in the past.”

The salary increase was approved unanimously by the five commissioners: Langer, Samantha Jenkins, Jim Randall, Joyce Turner and Jill Severn. The members were appointed by Mayor Cheryl Selby and approved by the council.

The proposal will bump the mayor’s annual salary to about $25,000, the mayor pro-tempore’s salary to about $23,000, and the council members’ salaries to about $21,000.

The elected officials also will receive a benefit stipend of $3,300 per year to offset out-of-pocket medical and dental costs.

Olympia’s elected officials already make more than those in neighboring Lacey. The Lacey mayor makes $18,600 per year, while the mayor pro-tempore makes $17,280 per year. Lacey City Council members make $15,900 per year.

Lacey has a population of about 46,000, while Olympia has a population of 51,000.

In Richland, which has a population of 53,000, the mayor makes $16,344 per year. City council members make $13,344 per year. The city doesn’t have a mayor pro-tempore position.

However, the demands placed on Olympia City Council members are higher than those placed on council members from other cities, Langer said, who served on the council from 2010 to 2015. The Olympia City Council meets weekly, and meetings can be long.

Council members serve on at least one city committee, and on interjurisdictional committees.

Constituents in Olympia tend to be more active than those in other cities, Langer said, and local elected officials spend a large amount of time meeting with the public.

“We have this great community with all this energy,” Langer said. “And it takes a lot of energy for the council to work with them.”

The raises will take effect 30 days after the changes are filed with the city clerk’s office. Any changes must be filed by Oct. 1.

There’s no limit on how much the commission could have increased or decreased elected officials’ salaries, said City Attorney Mark Barber.

The salary commission won’t meet again until June 2019.

Amelia Dickson: 360-754-5445, @Amelia_Oly

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