Jefferson County commissioners to consider 14.9% pay raise for their positions Monday

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County commissioners will consider raising annual salaries for their positions to $74,459, a 14.9 percent increase over the current $63,926 pay, on Monday.

The increases would take effect after the next elections for specific positions: in January 2015 for the District 3 seat now held by Chairman John Austin and in January 2017 for District 1, now represented by Phil Johnson, and the District 2 seat, now filled by David Sullivan.

The commissioners’ increase would each cost the county an additional $11,142 annually, once instituted.

All three county commissioners said they intend to support the measure, which, if passed, would result in the first salary increase for county commissioners since 2008.

“Based on the time spent and the commitment, the commissioners should be paid on par with other officials,” Austin said, referring to the fact that other elected officials receive more annual pay.

“It will also encourage younger people to run,” added Austin, who was 69 when he was re-elected to a second term in 2010.

Sullivan and Johnson, both in their 60s and both serving their third terms, agreed with Austin that a higher salary would draw a greater diversity of candidates.

“A lot of people look at the current salary and say, ‘I can make a lot more than that working somewhere else,’” Austin said.

“This job draws a lot out of you. It never goes away,” Sullivan said.

“It would be good to draw some new people to run.”

The raises would take effect after the expiration of current commissioners’ terms.

Austin will announce whether he will seek a third term later this month. Like Johnson and Sullivan, he is a Democrat.

Once the hike went into effect, the salary would be frozen for the four-year term of office.

While the commissioners’ salaries have been unchanged since 2008, other elected officials have received yearly increases since then, except in 2011, when no salaries changed.

In 2014, the assessor, auditor, clerk and treasurer all earn $71,980, while the sheriff receives $85,015.

The prosecuting attorney receives $127,857, with $51,952 paid by the county and $75,904 paid by the state.

Jefferson County has one District Court and one Superior Court judge, both of whom receive a $148,832 annual salary. Half of the Superior Court judge’s salary is paid by the state.

Neighboring Clallam County pays county commissioners $72,588 annually, according to a staff memo.

Clallam Commissioner Mike Chapman said that sounded correct for him and Commissioner Mike Doherty.

Clallam County has a step program in which commissioners are at the top of the pay range in their fifth year of service — in other words, after they have been re-elected.

Recently elected Commissioner Jim McIntire makes less, said County Administrator Jim Jones.

Even at the top of the scale, said Chapman, “we are the lowest-paid elected officials in Clallam County.”

Jefferson County staff arrived at the proposed salary by taking the average of the county commissioner salaries in five counties — Clallam, Lewis, Island, Chelan, Douglas — an amount of $74,939, and averaging that with the $71,980 annual salary paid Jefferson County’s assessor, auditor, clerk and treasurer.

The cost to the county of the commissioners’ increase would include payroll taxes and retirement but not benefits.

Austin said the current commissioners have not claimed any car allowances for several years “because we realize the county is facing tough economic times,” but future commissioners could choose to take the allowances at any time.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 08. 2014 5:32PM
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