Salary Commission recommends ‘reset’ for Camas officials’ stipends

If approved, city council members would get 17% monthly stipend boost; mayor would receive $2,750 a month

The Camas Salary Commission has agreed to a “stipend reset” that would boost monthly stipends going to the city’s mayor and city councilmembers by as much as 17 percent.

The Commission’s decision, which will be presented to the Camas City Council in December, will bump the monthly stipend for Camas’ mayor from $2,501 in 2021 to $2,750 in 2022, and stipends for Camas City Council members from $853 per month in 2021 to $1,000 per month in 2022. The Salary Commission also recommended keeping the mayor’s vehicle allowance at $300, and increasing technology allowances from $75 to $100 (mayor) and $50 to $75 (city council).

Salary Commission members first discussed the increases in October and held a public hearing on the matter on Nov. 8.

Commission member Allen Anderson said the final recommendation was “very much a compromise.”

Anderson added that they favored raising the monthly stipends even higher to help attract a more diverse pool of mayoral and city council candidates.

“What I see happening is that you have to be either independently wealthy or retired to hold the positions,” Anderson said. “I am in line for raising the mayor and city council (stipends) to higher amounts than we adjusted to.”

Anderson added the city’s 2021 stipends were low compared to other Washington cities that have comparable “strong mayor” systems, in which the mayor acts as the manager of city staff and is in charge of the city’s day-to-day operations.

“The rates we’re offering are low,” Anderson said. “We’re almost on the bottom. The amounts we agreed to raise the mayor and city council, but we’re still not at the top … what you see is a compromise, and I think it’s fair.”

Salary Commission member Zach Goodman said they were unable to attend the Commission’s Oct. 7 meeting, but had reviewed the video and understood “the factors going into the recommendation,” but still felt the proposed increases were too high.

“Ten percent for mayor and 17 percent for council seems a little excessive,” Goodman said. “I appreciate the tireless dedication of the councilors and mayor … and understand the cost for everything is increasing, but to recognize the hard work of our public servants and do what’s best for taxpayers, I think a lower rate is necessary.”

Goodman later added that an increase closer to the cost-of-living index used by city staff to help determine cost-of-living increases for city employees — which showed a 5.2 percent cost-of-living increase from July 2020 to July 2021 — would be a more appropriate recommendation for the stipend increase.

“It’s good to keep our focus on using taxpayer money as best we can,” Goodman said, “and I think a lot of councilors … are not doing it for the money.”

Following a stipend study in 2015, Salary Commission members recommended boosting stipends for Camas’ mayor and council members by 2.5 percent in 2017, 2 percent in 2018, 4 percent in 2019, 2.5 percent in 2020 and 2 percent in 2021.

The stipend and technology allowance increases will cost the city of Camas an additional $28,000 in 2022 — from an overall cost of $100,103 in 2021 to a total cost of $128,100 in 2022.

Salary Commission Chair Matt Ransom said he was not initially in favor of such a big increase to the monthly stipends, but came around after looking at how Camas compares to other cities’ stipends for public officials.

“Given where we stack up with most of our peers … and looking at the form of government we have, where the mayor has more administrative duties than Washougal with their council-manager form of government, I went with (the recommended stipend increases),” Ransom said. “I thought it was OK to do a reset, and (this brings Camas) in line with our peers across the state.”

Compared to other Washington cities with similar population sizes and a mayor-council form of government, Camas’ monthly stipend for the mayor was at the lower end. In Anacortes, for instance, which has about 8,000 fewer residents than Camas and a mayor-council form of government, the mayor’s monthly stipend is $9,652 versus Camas’ current $2,501 monthly stipend for its mayor. Likewise, in Mukilteo and Tukwila, which both have roughly 5,000 fewer residents than Camas and the same form of government, the monthly mayoral stipends are $5,900 and $9,480, respectively. City council stipends are more in line with Camas’ throughout Washington cities with populations between 15,000 and 50,000 and mayor-council forms of government, with most council members earning between $565 (Lake Stevens) and $1,250 (Edmonds) a month compared to Camas’ current monthly city council stipend of $853.

Commission member Sheila Schmid said last week that she believed the Salary Commission’s final stipend increases are fair.

“Regardless of how much money these people make, they’re actually stepping up and staying in these positions during this political climate, which I feel can be very degrading,” Schmid said of the city officials. “I’m comfortable with what we came up with. It’s not too much, not too little.”

Editor’s note: This article was edited on Nov. 24, 2021, to state that the Commission’s decision was final, and will sent to the city council for informational purposes only, not for council approval.