Pay increase possible for city’s elected officials

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(File photo by MARY MALONE) Sandpoint City Council is discussing possible raises for the next round of elected officials.

SANDPOINT — The city's elected officials are looking at getting a raise, though it wouldn't go into effect until after the next round of elections, which are coming up this fall.

"As required by state law, any time the council makes a decision to change, in a positive way, elected officials salaries, that salary change does not actually take place until after the next city election," said City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton.

During last Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Stapleton presented council with the average pay for City Council members and mayors throughout Idaho's Panhandle, Region 1. The cities, Stapleton said, include Coeur d'Alene, Rathdrum, Post Falls, Hayden, Moscow and Lewiston — some of the larger neighboring cities that participate in benchmarking surveys. 

Monthly salaries for council members in neighboring cities range from $520-$816 for an average of $666.94. Part-time mayor positions in the region receive $770-$2,700 for an average of $1,603.16.

Sandpoint City Council members receive a stipend of $400 per month, and the mayor receives $1,200 — well below the reported average.

Stapleton asked council for direction on whether to include an increase in the narrative for next year's budget, which she will present during the next meeting on July 19.

Council will likely adopt a preliminary budget at that time, which will then be workshopped in subsequent meetings.

The pay raises can be revised or cut out of the budget altogether at that point. 

A public hearing would need to be held in August prior to approval of the pay raises if council decides to include them in the final budget.

Councilwoman Deb Ruehle was concerned about the averages because the range of cities did not necessarily take into account the population and tax base compared to Sandpoint.

"I think it can be heavily skewed if you're pulling a salary from a much greater tax base ... whereas Sandpoint is a very small town, so I don't know if the regional concept is quite as accurate as the tax base and population that the salary is related to," Ruehle said.

In the pool of cities used to garner the averages, Stapleton noted she does not know which numbers belong to which city. In attempt to gain an average of cities closer to the size of Sandpoint, Stapleton said she will remove the highest and lowest salaries from the pool and recalculate the average before adding it into the preliminary budget.

The last raise for elected officials in Sandpoint was approved in 2014 and took effect in January 2016. Council increased from $275 per month to $400, and the mayoral position increased from $1,000 per month to $1,275.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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