PORT ANGELES — Port Angeles City Council has approved raising pay for council members with a 6-1 vote.
The ordinance will be effective on Jan. 1, 2024, for new council terms.
In Tuesday’s action, council members removed a provision of a 2.5 percent annual increase in favor of holding a bi-annual conversation on council pay prior to budget approval beginning in 2026.
The dissenting vote came from council member LaTrisha Suggs, who supported the 2.5 percent annual increase.
“I think the staff did an excellent job with their proposal when they looked at the Consumer Price Index and averaged it out to 2.5 percent,” Suggs said.
“But there are so many more important things that we could be discussing besides this, and I think it’s best to have something that is on the books that is permanent.”
Suggs noted that a future council would be able to go back and change the policy if it wanted to.
“Just because it’s in the book, doesn’t mean that council can’t go back and change that annual percentage, and they can go through the public process.”
Council member Amy Miller moved to strike the 2.5 percent annual increase in favor of holding a bi-annual conversation on council pay.
That move was seconded by Deputy Mayor Brendan Meyer.
“This makes sense and I think it’s good for council members to expend a little bit of that political capital every couple of years to show the people that they have to have a conversation about it,” Meyer said.
Said Miller: “My intention for supporting the overall council compensation increase was to bring the council up to some comparable standards while also considering the effort, time and needs of the council, and I believe this current ordinance does that.
“But I am uncomfortable with an annual 2.5 percent increase that is expected,” Miller added. “I would prefer that any increase or decrease be a conversation between council, staff and residents of Port Angeles.”
In April, the council directed staff to draft an ordinance to double council member compensation, create a provision for automatic annual increases and allow for a $200 travel stipend.
During its May 2 meeting, the council approved doubling council compensation, bringing council members from $550 per month to $1,000 per month, deputy mayor from $600 to $1,200 per month and mayor from $650 to $1,300 per month. The mayor and deputy mayor are selected by the elected council members.
Also during that May 2 meeting, the council voted to have staff draft an ordinance that allowed for the annual 2.5 percent increase and removed the $200 travel stipends in favor of council members being reimbursed for travel costs, including child care.
Council member Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin moved to amend Miller’s motion, and rather than strike the annual increase, reduce it to 2.145 or 2.2 percent.
The motion was seconded by council member Navarra Carr.
“My position hasn’t changed on this,” Carr said.
“I feel like we could be discussing more important things every two years than talking about how much we should pay ourselves,” she added. “I don’t want to do that, and I don’t want to force any other council into talking about this every two years. I don’t think it’s fair, I don’t think it’s equitable, and I think that having a set amount provides future councils with a default, and if they don’t like it, they can change it.”
Carr ultimately voted in favor of striking the increase.
Suggs described Schromen-Wawrin’s proposal as splitting hairs.
Schromen-Wawrin’s proposal ultimately died in a 5-2 vote.
Four current city council members’ terms will be up at the end of this year: Carr, Meyer, Miller and Charlie McCaughan.
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at email@example.com.