GRANDVIEW - After an hour of deliberation, the Grandview City Council voted itself a raise for the first time in 10 years.
Mayor Norm Childress brought the subject up during a study session last night, Monday, noting that the city needs to compensate council members for the time they put in beyond two council meetings a month.
Childress and City Administrator Scott Staples initially suggested nearly doubling council pay from $257 to $450 per month. The mayor's monthly stipend was suggested to increase from $450 to $650.
The recommendations were based on what other councils and mayors in similar sized Valley cities earn. Mayoral pay, for example, ranges from $2,000 a month in Union Gap to $417 in Prosser. Council stipends range from $450 a month in Union Gap to $40 per meeting in Sunnyside.
Councilman Bill Flory opposed the idea of a pay raise for council and mayor, noting that the city is looking at raising utility taxes by $3.50 a month. That he said will be hard on those on fixed incomes.
"We asked staff to take a salary freeze a few years ago," Flory said. "I think we should take a salary freeze."
Noting the last pay hike was in 1997, Councilwoman Pam Horner countered, "I'm hearing that our salaries have been frozen for the past 10 years."
Councilwoman Joanne Souders reminded her colleagues that what they receive is not a salary, but a stipend. Childress added that if a city councilman's monthly stipend was broken down per hour it would amount to about $1 or $2 an hour because of all the time put in.
Childress said what it really comes down to is not the council of today, but attracting qualified candidates in the future. He agreed with Councilman Robert Morales that council has become "exclusive," in that single parents and those with lower incomes likely could not afford to pay for childcare or take the time away from work required of service on the council or as mayor.
"I'm looking down the road," Childress said of ensuring the city draws a wide range of candidates for office. To those council members who didn't want a pay raise, Childress offered, "If you want to take the high road you can give the money back."
Souders brought a divided council together, suggesting that council and mayor stipends be increased by 20 percent. Horner agreed that could be a start, but that the issue needs to be addressed again during budget deliberations next year.
Later during a brief regular session last night, council voted 5-1, with Flory casting the lone no vote, to approve the 20 percent raise putting council stipends at $300 per month and the mayor stipend at $540 per month.
Childress said he wanted action taken last night so that those newly elected to office this week can gain the benefits of the pay raise that will take effect Jan. 1.
Council's not done with 2008 budget deliberations, though, setting up a fourth special session at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 19. Among issues to be discussed will be significant pay raises Childress is proposing for the city administrator, assistant police chief and fire chief.