Commissioners took steps to curb own salary increases

On Monday county employees aired their complaints to the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners about proposed contract terms for 2013 and beyond. Some took issue with commissioner salaries. They asserted commissioners continued to take pay increases, even as their own wages have remained frozen since 2009 due to the county’s economic woes.

Under state laws, a sitting commissioner cannot reduce his or her own salary, but the board since 2009 has taken steps to offset automatic raises for their positions that were established by earlier resolutions. To clarify, the only time a commissioner can vote on adjustments to “his or her” own salary in the upcoming four-year term of office is when he or she is up for re-election.

All three sitting commissioners (and former commissioner Steve Bauer) have paid out-of-pocket toward medical benefits that the county otherwise would have covered. County records show commissioners have saved the county the following amounts from 2009 through 2011: Charlotte Garrido ($23,202), Josh Brown ($14,206), Rob Gelder (in 2011, $3,772); Bauer (2009 and 2010, $16,129).

In 2010, the board passed a resolution freezing the position 3 (Central Kitsap) salary in 2011 through 2014 at $112,053 (the 2010 rate). Brown’s first term as CK commissioner ended in 2010, and he was re-elected, starting a second term in 2011.

In 2011, the board passed two resolutions accepting donations to the county from District 1 and 2 commissioners (Garrido and Gelder) in amounts equivalent to the difference between their salaries and the frozen position 3 salary (Brown’s).

The 2011 resolution was intended to at least partially offset a resolution passed in 2007 that established the position 1 and 2 salaries from 2009 through 2012. The 2009 amount was $119,064, with 2 percent raises in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Voting for the resolution were Brown and Bauer. Jan Angel voted against it.

In a 2010 article, I erroneously reported that the district 1 and 2 commissioners would get a 9 percent raise in 2012. The 2012 salary, $126,353, was nearly 9 percent higher than the initial year’s salary. But to repeat, the 2012 increase was to have been 2 percent, not 9 percent. I have made a correction to the online version of the story, and I apologize for the error.

In April this year, with Garrido and Gelder up for re-election, the board reduced salaries for the district 1 and 2 positions in 2013 and 2014, to bring them in line with the position three salary of $112,053. The resolution calls for 2 percent increases to the district 1 and 2 salaries in 2015 and 2016.

The wages of other elected officials, including the assessor, auditor, clerk, coroner, sheriff, treasurer, prosecutor, have been frozen since 2009.

Perhaps you’re wondering how salaries for elected officials are established. Kitsap County in 2003 adopted a method to set their salaries as a percentage of superior court judges’ salaries, which are set by the Washington State Citizens Commission on Salaries. Each position is calculated as a percentage of the judges’ salaries, and resolutions dating from 2005 and 2007 established salaries under the new system. The commissioners’ percentage is 80 percent. In theory, having a set formulas takes the potential for politics out of the process.

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