Elected officials in Whatcom County will receive raises in 2014 and again in 2015, after the county's first citizen salary commission finalized the compensation for the executive, council, assessor, auditor, prosecutor, sheriff and treasurer.
On Thursday, April 18, the Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials affirmed the raises for all county elected officials as proposed in a March meeting of the 10-member board.
County council members will receive a 15 percent raise next year, bringing their part-time salary to $24,150 a year. The sheriff's raise will be 5.7 percent, to $126,155. Commission members perceived the sheriff as having more responsibilities in his position, considering he manages a larger number of employees and the jail. The commission used the Bellingham police chief's salary for comparison but kept the sheriff's salary below that.
The county prosecutor's salary was tied to what the state pays superior court judges. Next year, that figure is expected to be $151,809, which would mean a 4.3 percent raise for the prosecutor.
The executive, assessor, auditor and treasurer were given 2.3 percent raises. Commissioners considered the 3.8 percent raise given to some county employees effective March 31. They decided on a smaller raise in part because the elected officials are paid slightly better than people in the same offices in similar counties.
In public comments, some questioned whether the elected officials should receive any raises.
Ken Thompson, president at Teamsters Local 231 in Bellingham, said in an April 17 email it was "conflicting" to learn elected officials could receive raises when in negotiations with the union the county's position has been "no new money."
"If there is money to provide increases let every employee benefit ... not just a few," Thompson wrote.
The raises for elected officials will cost the county an additional $45,000 in 2014.
The county's first salary commission convened beginning in January to meet a May 1 deadline to set the salaries of county elected officials for 2014 and 2015. A ballot measure to establish the commission was approved in November 2011 by 61 percent of county voters.
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