Port Angeles City Council discusses pay raise

Two suggestions: Double stipend or hourly wage

PORT ANGLES — A Port Angeles City Council discussion on increasing compensation for mayor and council positions generated two ideas: double the present monthly stipend or offer an hourly wage that is double the state-mandated minimum.

The council ultimately moved to have staff come back with options based on the outcome of the discussion from Tuesday night.

The initial proposal was to double the monthly compensation for the mayor and council as those compensation rates have not changed since 2003, despite an attempt to discuss it in December 2019.

Port Angeles mayor currently earns a $650 monthly stipend while each council member earns a stipend of $550 per month. Doubling the stipend would bring the mayor’s monthly stipend to $1,300 and council members to $1,100.

Washington state law dictates that council members cannot increase or decrease their salary while serving their terms, so the increase would affect only council candidates who run for seats in 2023 and 2025 and any year after.

Council member Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin proposed that the mayor and council receive an hourly wage, double the state’s current minimum wage.

“What I would propose is, basically, a scale that allows people to serve on city council at the level that they want,” Schromen-Wawrim said.

“So, what I would suggest is, basically, a per-hour compensation for council members. I would suggest twice the state minimum wage, which, currently, the state minimum wage is $15.70, so it’d be $31.48. And then we basically submit our timesheet once a month.”

Most mayor and council positions across the state are monthly stipends. There is no known record in the state of any council adopting an hourly wage for what is ostensibly a volunteer position.

“There are a few cities that pay a substantial salary to council members that make it a full-time job,” Schromen-Wawrin said in a phone call on Thursday. “I think Seattle and Spokane are great examples of that.”

Seattle council members are currently paid over $10,000 per month, according to City of Seattle website, while Spokane council members are paid a monthly stipend of $1,800 per month, according to the City of Spokane website.

Schromen-Wawrin said he made the proposal because council members and the mayor can do variable amounts of work so he believes an hourly rate would make more sense.

“I thought it made sense to say, well, the compensation can be variable based on what you want to put in,” he said Thursday.

“Some people are like, well, I’m serving the city, I’m coming to the meetings, I‘m doing my job. Other people reach out to constituents to help them navigate the city system, get involved in a particular policy issue, and extra sub-committees and so on,” Schromen-Wawrin said.

He also said he wants the positions on the council to be accessible to the working families of Port Angeles, encouraging more engagement with civic leadership.

“This means for a lot of people if they have a full-time jobs and then take care of their kids in the evening and can’t access the city council, and I really think the working people of Port Angeles are the best representatives of what the city needs to do to create a sustainable economy for everyone,” Schromen-Wawrin said.

Schromen-Wawrin went on to say that he is pushing for flexibility in the compensation of those who want to serve on the council.

“I’m pushing for something that allows somebody who wants to put 25 hours a month into being a city council member, that that can work for them, but can also be something for someone who is like, ‘I’m passionate about making the city a good place and I want to spend my time doing that,’” Schromen-Wawrin said.

Other council members balked at the suggestion of an hourly wage, citing concerns about how it would be managed and how that system could be abused by future council members.

“I appreciate your work, Lindsey, but I am against an hourly wage. I don’t see how you could be managed. I mean, it could be easily done, but it could also be easily abused,” council member Charlie McCaughan said.

Council member Amy Miller noted that it would be difficult to determine working hours under Schromen-Wawarin’s proposal, opening another potential abuse of the hourly system.

“I don’t think I support an hourly wage in that way because what I may consider council business may not be what everyone considers council business,” she said.

“Is it when you put your badge on? Then you start counting? Or if you’re at the Safeway and a resident wants to talk to you about the code changes, and how they disagree. Do you then put your badge on and start counting those moments?

“I also think it leaves a little bit of space for abuse because, you know, I trust myself and I trust you guys, but I also think that, without some kind of oversight, it could be abuse,” Miller said.

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Reporter Ken Park can be reached at kpark@peninsuladailynews.com.

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