Port Angeles council to weigh final OK of raise

Some aspects of proposed ordinance changed

PORT ANGELES — Port Angeles City Council will consider final approval of an ordinance raising council compensation following the second reading at its next meeting on May 16.

In a 6-1 vote on Tuesday, the Port Angeles City Council directed staff to amend a proposed ordinance on council member compensation that doubles the council salary, removes a proposed $200 travel stipend in favor of reimbursement, and provides a 2.5 percent increase to council compensation annually.

The dissenting vote came from Council member Amy Miller who was appointed to the role to fill the seat left vacant by now county Commissioner Mike French.

Miller was not in favor of the 2.5 percent increase, preferring an annual discussion over the percentage.

“I wonder if there is value in having, instead of having a fixed percentage for the increase, having some kind of trigger for this discussion for future council?” Miller said.

Council member Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin argued that the fixed increase was the easiest way to address it.

In April, 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.

Current council member compensation is $550 per month for council members, $600 for the deputy mayor and $650 for the mayor. The increase would give council members $1,000 per month, $1,200 for deputy mayor, and $1,300 for mayor. Mayor and deputy mayor are chosen by the council from elected council members.

City staff reviewed the Consumer Price Index for the annual percentage increase over the last 20 years and found the average cost of living increase to be 2.5 percent. However, in the draft ordinance, staff left the percentage amount blank to allow for the council to discuss an appropriate annual percentage increase.

Staff also proposed that, rather than a $200 travel stipend, council members be reimbursed for travel expenses as they relate to meals, miles driven, and lodging based on guidelines provided by the Internal Revenue Service.

City staff additionally proposed that a council member receive reimbursement for a conference no more than five times per year. Compensated attendance would have to be approved by the complete council.

The city’s legal department backs the reimbursement program since the proposed $200 stipend would violate the city rule that compensation must be a fixed amount that cannot vary during a council member’s term.

“What is permitted for municipal office holders, is they are permitted to have a salary, the salary must be fixed and it must not be variable depending upon any outside factors like CPI or the number of meetings attended,” City Attorney Bill Bloor said. “So the salary is the salary.”

Council member Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin moved to strike the travel stipend from the proposed ordinance and instead replace it with the reimbursement option, which would include child care costs for when council members travel on behalf of the city.

“One of the reasons I liked the idea of the travel stipend was because historically we have not had council members who have school-aged children and I think working people are represented well in Port Angeles when we do have parents on city council,” Schromen-Wawrin said.

”So a normal travel stipend is food, lodging, and vehicle, but if we can include child care costs in there I think we make up for some of the issues the original travel stipend would have raised,” he added.

The motion was seconded by Council member Navarra Carr.

“We’ve talked about the child care crisis in our community and how important it is for people to have the ability to participate in events that they would need child care for … This is a way to try and build in equity for our city in ways that are constitutional,” Carr said.

Council compensation has not been increased since 2003.

If approved, this ordinance would go into effect on Jan. 1 2024, and could impact at least four of the sitting council members whose terms will be up at the end of this year if they run for reelection.

Navarra Carr has already announced her intent to run for re-election.

No formal announcement has been made by Charlie McCaughan, Deputy Mayor Brendan Meyer, or Amy Miller.


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

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