Jefferson County commissioners OK pay increase for future board members
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Jefferson County Auditor Donna Eldridge speaks out in support of a salary increase for Jefferson County commissioners at a meeting Monday as Tom Thiersch listens. — Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — The three Jefferson County commissioners on Monday approved a pay increase for future commissioners that ties the amount for raises to a percentage of the salary for a state Superior Court judge.

“I think it’s about time, gentlemen. I have been saying year after year that you need an increase in your salary,” said Jefferson County Auditor Donna Eldridge after the measure was approved.

“It’s long overdue, and I applaud you.”

The judge’s salary level is set by Washington state each year and is currently $156,832.

Using the current figures under the formula approved Monday, the commissioners would receive a $73,951 salary, a 15.6 percent increase over the current $63,926 and slightly less than the $74,459 proposed in a March 10 resolution.

The formula is based on commissioners receiving 47 percent of the salary for Superior Court judges.

The actual salary increase will be tied to the rate the state decides to pay judges in 2016, a number that is not yet available.

Prior to Monday’s meeting, all three commissioners indicated they would approve the resolution that called for increases to take effect in January 2015 for District No. 3 and in January 2017 for Districts Nos. 2 and 3.

The commissioners would not be voting on a raise that affects them directly.

At the meeting, Commissioner Phil Johnson moved to postpone the decision, a motion seconded by Commissioner David Sullivan, to study other options that would “take the politics” out of the process and eliminate a period where one commissioner was making more than another.

The commissioners will have received the same salary for nine years, with their last increase taking place in 2008.

On Monday, board clerk Erin Lundgren presented four options for raises: two with fixed amounts to take place on staggered dates and two tied to the judges’ salary.

One of these options was to raise the District 3 salary in 2015 and the others in 2017.

Lundgren and County Administrator Philip Morley recommended either that option or the one that was approved — to raise all salaries in 2017 in the amount tied to judge salaries.

“The advantage of indexing it down the road is that all three commissioner salaries will be equalized, and tying it to the judge’s salaries doesn’t require our legislative oversight,” Morley said.

“While there are no guarantees, it is likely that commissioners’ salaries will be addressed in some fashion, and we won’t repeat the current situation where they are frozen for an entire term.”

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

Last modified: March 17. 2014 7:52PM
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