The Camas Salary Commission agreed this week to postpone a decision that could increase monthly stipends and technology allowances for Camas Mayor Barry McDonnell and members of the Camas City Council.
At a Commission meeting held Monday, Sept. 28, commissioners said they would hold off on a discussion regarding the possible increases until mid-October, when all four members — Commission Chair Matthew McBride and commissioners John Nohr, Matt Ransom and Sheila Schmid — would be present.
The commissioners may tie the increases to any cost of living adjustments (COLA) budgeted for non-represented city employees. In that case, if the non-represented employees, for instance, receive a 2-percent COLA increase in the city’s 2021 budget, the mayor’s and councilors’ stipends also would increase by 2 percent.
The Salary Commission recommended increasing the mayor’s and council members’ stipends by 2.5 percent in 2020. Currently, McDonnell earns a monthly stipend of $2,452 plus a $300 monthly vehicle allowance and $75 monthly technology allowance. Council members earn monthly stipends of $836 plus a monthly $50 technology allowance.
In total, the city’s finance departments projects Camas will spend $108,838.77 on mayor and council costs in 2020, compared to a total of $106,057.94 in 2019 and $99,760 in 2018.
If the Salary Commission recommends a 2-percent COLA increase for the mayor’s and councilors’ stipends, McDonnell would receive a monthly stipend of $2,501 in 2021 and council members would receive monthly stipends of $853.
In 2019, the stipends given to the Camas mayor and council members were the second-highest in Clark County. Only Vancouver — a city with 189,700 residents compared to Camas’ 25,140 — awarded higher monthly stipends to its mayor ($2,488) and councilors ($1,947).
Camas is one of three cities in Clark County, including La Center and Yacolt — and the only Clark County city with a population over 4,000 — that still maintains a “strong mayor” (mayor/council) form of government. Washougal, which moved to a “strong council” form of government in 2019 and hired a city manager to oversee the daily business of the city, gives its council members a $600 monthly stipend.
Time study shows weekly hours for mayor, councilors
On Monday, the Commission discussed the results of a 2020 time study conducted by city council members and the mayor, which showed councilors work an average of 15.75 hours a week, including seven hours for council meeting-related activities; four hours as liaisons to various committees and boards; three hours interacting with citizens; and nearly two hours training or on webinars. McDonnell told the commission he works 30 hours a week on city business, but the commission’s data did not break down the mayor’s time commitments.
The council members and mayor noted in the time study that COVID-19 has “greatly impacted” the 2020 time study and said hours will increase post-COVID.
Another time study in 2015 showed the mayor worked 30 hours a week and council members worked 5.6 hours a week on city business.
But McBride said Monday that he believed the 2015 time study neglected to include much of the prep work council members did before council and commission meetings.
“My recollection then was that the number was low because the things they did to prep (were) not getting captured,” McBride said, adding he thought the council members and mayor may actually be working more hours than they may have had the COVID-19 pandemic never happened, as the move to online meetings often takes more prep time.
The actual number of hours worked per week, once the pandemic has ended and council members and the mayor return to a more “normal,” in-person environment may be “somewhere in between,” McBride said.
The stipends given to the city officials are not meant to be a salary or tied to hours worked, however, the commissioners said. On Monday, McBride noted that the councilors’ and mayor’s workload had not significantly increased over the past few years.
“The number of city meetings hasn’t changed and (their) commitments to commissions … hasn’t changed,” he said. “We do want to recognize the contributions they (make to the city), but I don’t think the hourly, in my opinion, is as important as if we saw big shifts (in time commitments to meetings or liaison responsibilities).”
Each of the city councilors, as well as the mayor, act as liaisons and alternate liaisons to several commissions, committees and boards:
Councilman Greg Anderson, Camas’ mayor pro-tem, also serves as a liaison to C-TRAN, the Economic Development Strategy Committee for Economic Incentives (EDSCEI), the joint policy advisory committee (JPAC) for the local fire department, the fire/ems partnership and the public safety committee.
Councilwoman Ellen Burton is a liaison for eight entities, including the Columbia River Economic Development Council (CREDC) and the city’s shoreline management, bee, sister cities, communication and public safety committees, JPAC and the Camas Youth Advisory Council.
Councilwoman Bonnie Carter is a liaison for the communication, finance and public works committees, and the library board.
Councilman Don Chaney, the city’s alternate mayor pro-tem, is a member of the LEOFF Disability Board and a liaison to Camas’ city/school, finance, JPAC and public safety committees, as well as the Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency (CRESA).
Councilman Steve Hogan is a liaison for the Georgia-Pacific mill advisory, EDSCEI and finance committees.
Councilwoman Melissa Smith is a liaison for the Camas-Washougal Chamber of Commerce and Port of Camas-Washougal, as well as the design review and parks and recreation committees, and is a member of the LEOFF Disability Board.
Councilwoman Shannon Roberts is a liaison for the Downtown Camas Association, the East County ambulance advisory board, the G-P mill advisory committee, the Camas Planning Commission and the lodging tax advisory committee.
Mayor Barry McDonnell is a liaison for the community development block grant program, EDSCEI, the fire/ems partnership and the G-P mill advisory committee.
On Monday, the Salary Commission members discussed whether they may need to recommend an increase in monthly technology allowances for the councilors and mayor since the remote meetings of COVID-19 may be “the new normal” for another year or even longer.
“People may be upgrading (their internet service). If this (remote) meeting is the format for the next 12 months, what are the needs for the city?” McBride asked.
Schmid, the Commission’s newest member, said she recognized that the councilors and mayor put in a lot of hours in their capacities as city officials, but added that the stipends and allowances were not meant to pay the officials’ bills, but were more of a showing of “good faith” for the officials’ time commitments.
“I’m thinking more of the ways that money (for extra technology allowances or stipend increases) can be utilized, can be a more direct use to the city of Camas,” Schmid said. “I think there are other agencies that are struggling.”
The Commission will discuss the stipends and allowances for council members and Mayor McDonnell again in mid-October. For more information, visit cityofcamas.us/yourgovern ment/minuteagendavideo.