Coppola on the Pros and Cons of Mayoral Pay Hike

Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola is seeking approval from the city council for an increase in the mayor’s salary from $19,738 per year, which funds a part-time position, to more than $60,000 for a full-time position. Coppola issued a statement documenting his arguments for the increase and addressing arguments against the proposal.

Here’s the Cliff notes version (full text below the fold):

Headings in the “for” category:

It’s more than a full-time job.

We have not had a seat at the table when decisions impacting both the City and Kitsap County in general have been made.

We have relied on our South Kitsap Commissioner to look out for our interests when the city should be proactive

It’s impossible to do this job and hold another job.

It’s impossible to do this job part-time and move the city forward

Arguments he addresses against making the change to a full-time mayor:

The current mayor should have researched this before deciding to run for office

Synopsis: He did, but the requirement to represent the city on numerous boards and subcommittees of local agencies was not listed among the mayor’s duties in city code.

Any change like this should be voted on by the people:

Synopsis: Port Orchard is a second class city (population-wise) so this decision by law rests with the city council, not voters. Even if it were, codifying the mayor’s pay rate by a vote would remove the flexibility the council has to lower as well as raise the salary annually. The election would also cost taxpayers.

The financial realities of the decision:

Synopsis: Coppola says that the pending Fred Meyer annexation alone will bring in enough sales tax revenue to cover the increase.

From Lary Coppola:
Why Port Orchard Needs a Full-Time Mayor

It’s more than a full-time job.
The Mayor is basically the City Administrator and manages the day-to-day operations of the City. This is primarily an administrative job — not a political one. Among these duties are all business and personnel decisions. These include: hiring and firing; overseeing the City Clerk’s office, the Planning Department, Public Works, Engineering, Human Resources, Finance and Police Departments, as well as the City Court system; coordinating preparation of the initial annual budget for review by the Finance Committee and later the full City Council; negotiating for, and purchasing products and services the City needs and uses within the established budget; negotiating and signing contracts for city projects up to specific spending limits; making sure the City is in compliance with all state and federal laws; meeting with other electeds on issues of mutual concern; lobbying state and federal legislators and conveying the City’s concerns and needs to them, as well as following up with them; coordinating all the City’s tourism and economic development efforts; meeting with people interested in doing business with the City; meeting with people interested in establishing businesses in the City, which includes representatives for major retailers, manufacturers, information technology companies and all other types of businesses; researching and making appointments to all of the various City boards and commissions (Civil Service Commission, Planning Commission, Public Facilities District, etc.); being the public spokesperson for, and “face” of the City; and representing the City at public functions. But perhaps the biggest job is being the person responsible for addressing and personally responding to all citizen concerns, which runs the entire gamut from getting potholes fixed to dealing with sex offenders.
Currently, the Mayor is scheduled to work 15 hours per week (I currently put in 50-60 hours). We are the only local city without a full time Mayor and the results are apparent everywhere — from the economic condition of downtown, to the reasons we have Indian fishing boats residing at Port Orchard Marina. Previous Mayors not having the time to research appointments, such as the Public Facilities District for example, have cost the City literally millions of dollars in lost opportunities.

We have not had a seat at the table when decisions impacting both the City and South Kitsap in general have been made.
All the other full-time Mayors are always present when and where the money is being handed out, advocating hard for their citizens. This is why Bremerton, Poulsbo and Bainbridge Island have all received the lion’s share of county, state and federal funding for their City’s projects, while Port Orchard has received little or nothing — except funding for the county jail. Port Orchard has had no one at the table demanding our fair share and advocating for Port Orchard and South Kitsap — until now. But doing so, considering all the other responsibilities, simply requires more than 15 hours a week.

We have relied upon our South Kitsap County Commissioner to look out for our interests when the City should be pro-active.
The Tremont Street Gateway, Bay Street repaving, and Bethel Road projects are all prime examples. All of the funding originally allocated for Bethel was diverted to Central Kitsap road projects, such as the new Clear Creek Rd interchange and the proposed connector road now under consideration. Meanwhile, South Kitsap residents are being asked to tax themselves to pay for Bethel. Why? Because our current County Commissioner has been outvoted along partisan political lines for years, allowing what should have been rightfully ours, to be diverted to Central Kitsap as punishment for her political affiliation.
Who is representing the citizens of Port Orchard who use Bethel on a daily basis? No one. A full-time Mayor would have added a strong voice and help marshal citizen support for Bethel instead of allowing funding that is rightfully ours to be spent elsewhere. I am leading the charge for annexation of the Bethel corridor, and have met with the county commissioners individually to lobby them on excluding this area from the revenue sharing agreement so we can use that money to fund the infrastructure development that needs to occur there. It appears they will agree and the South Kitsap commissioner has agreed to bring this forward for a vote.
The Bay Street repaving almost didn’t happen and Tremont is years behind schedule with costs increasing every day and no secured full funding source yet in sight. The other commitments and demands required of a part-time Mayor prevent having the time necessary to devote to these kinds of issues and projects. We get what we work for, but if no one is there to work for us, we get what we’ve traditionally gotten — nothing.

It’s impossible to do this job right, and hold another job.
Because the time commitments are so vast and the scheduling of them coordinated with other elected officials and public agencies, it is almost impossible for anyone elected to this job to be anything but retired, independently wealthy, or have no financial need for employment. Imagine going to your present employer and saying, “I need 6 hours off next Tuesday to attend four board meetings, and another five hours off on Thursday to go over to Seattle for PSRC. I’ll also need an hour off on Wednesday for my department head meeting, and two hours for meeting with some people who want to invest in downtown. Oh, yeah, I also have a lunch meeting with one of our County Commissioners on Monday I’ll need time off for.” If you were to do this on an ongoing basis, how long do you think you’d have that job?

It’s impossible to do this job part-time and move the City forward.
There are a lot of challenges facing our city — as well as a lot of opportunities. Because I have done the Mayor’s job full-time for the past year, Port Orchard is now positioned for well-planned future growth — growth that is inevitable, whether we want it or not. How we plan for it is the key because we will live with the results for generations. We only have one opportunity to do it right. Bringing our Comprehensive Plan in compliance with state law was the first step. Master planning the transportation and zoning elements of the Sedgwick-Sidney-Pottery corridor area is the next step. The last thing we want it to become is another Silverdale.
The annexations of McCormick Woods and the Bethel corridor will bring our City a new perspective. We are currently processing applications for annexation along Sedgwick Road that includes Fred Meyer and a number of other retail businesses. This is a rich source of new sales tax revenue for the City. We have over 30 annexation requests for the remainder of the Bethel corridor in hand. When we are finished, we will have all of the Bethel corridor retail areas as part of our City, and they will generate the revenue to do the needed capital improvements our citizens demand and deserve. But it will take a full-time administrator to oversee these projects. It simply won’t get done — or done right — with a part-time Mayor trying to juggle all of this as well as the other demands of the job, working 15 hours a week.

Arguments Against Making The Change To a Full-Time Mayor

The current Mayor should have researched this before deciding to run for office.
That is a valid argument — to a point. Due diligence was performed prior to running for election, which included discussing the job with a former mayor and meeting with incumbent and past city council members. Researching the City Code outlining the Mayor’s responsibilities did not reveal the required time commitments not outlined under the City Code. These include serving on the boards of numerous public agency organizations, where the Mayor is required to serve as a board member in their bylaws, or as a result of Interlocal Agreements, and/or state statue — but not under City Code. These include the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority (KCCHA — of which the current Mayor is Vice Chair); Kitsap Transit; CenCom; Kitsap County Department of Emergency Management (DEM); Kitsap County Health District; Kitsap Economic Development Alliance (KEDA — of which the current Mayor is also a member of the Executive Committee and chair of the Buy-Local committee); Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council (KRCC), and Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC). The Mayor additionally serves on sub-committees of these organizations as well as being an ex-officio member of the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce board.
If the Mayor simply attended all of the required board meetings of all these organizations — and never set foot inside of City Hall — over the course of a month it would much more than fill up the 15 hours a week the mayor is allotted. Due diligence — including reading the City Code, did not turn up the fact these public agency time commitments are required. It also did not turn up the fact the City was out of compliance with the state’s Growth Management Act (GMA), cutting off numerous grant funding opportunities. Returning the City to compliance with the GMA has taken all of the first year, and at 15 hours a week, it would have taken much longer.
My original expectation based on due diligence, was that this was a 30-32 hour a week job, which would allow time for me to continue working in my business and draw a paycheck from it. I had no way to know about all the Interlocal Agreements and public agency commitments, or the status of the Comprehensive Plan.

Any change like this should be put to a vote of the people.
This is a red herring. Because Port Orchard is not a Code City, but what’s classified as a Second-Class City under state law, the authority for this decision is vested in the City Council, not the voters. The City Council has the power to make this change — and to rescind it if the Mayor doesn’t perform up to its expectations.
If this change were voted upon by the citizens and codified into law, it could not be changed without another vote of the people as well. The cost to the taxpayers of putting this to a vote — even when run in conjunction with a regularly scheduled election — is a minimum of about $15,000. That’s money the City can better spend on other things — like parks, public safety, and capital improvements.
If it’s put to a vote and codified into law, we also run the risk of electing a better politician than administrator, and not being able to change the situation in any way, or have the City Council be able to take control to minimize any damage, should it become necessary. Not codifying this by election also provides the Council with maximum flexibility where future City budgets are concerned.

The financial realities of this decision
The Mayor’s position will pay a little over $19,000 a year in 2009. What is being requested is a little over $62,000 — a salary equal to the Mayor of Poulsbo, which is a smaller City in terms of both population and physical size. The difference between the current part-time salary and the proposed full-time salary, approximately $40,000, will NOT come from the City’s 2009 budget. $15,000 of the proposed increase will come from $32,000 of the City’s Hotel/Motel tax allocation originally earmarked to help fund a tourism coordinator. In putting together the 2009 budget, the Finance Committee came to the realization that it would not be able to make up the required difference to fully fund this position in the 2009 budget. Since the current Mayor already does most of this work anyway, that is a legally viable source for that money, and it will fund approximately 6 months of the additional pay. The balance will come from sales tax revenue generated by Fred Meyer, which in a worse-case scenario the City will begin receiving at the end of April. Even with the current revenue-sharing agreement the City has with the County that dictates a sales tax split of 25 percent the first year, 50 percent the second, 75 percent the third and 100 percent the fourth year, there is still more than enough money to fund the proposed increase for the entire year at 25 percent. There is no additional cost to the taxpayers of making this change.
I have worked for a year on a full-time basis (50-60 hours a week) for the current part time salary. I have also been forced to hire people in my business to do what I used to do there, and have not drawn a paycheck from my business in the time I have served as Mayor.

The alternatives to not making this a full-time position
I must scale back my schedule to the allotted 15 hours per week and go back to work full-time in my business. This will basically leave Port Orchard in the same, “empty seat at the table” position it has traditionally had in regards to all other government functions and interactions. The City Council members can begin attending some of these numerous meetings, but they will have no statutory authority to represent, or vote on behalf of, the City. That is the Mayor’s job. In the past, the part-time Mayors have simply not fulfilled these responsibilities, and Port Orchard has suffered for it. There will be precious little time for working on economic development and tourism, as management of the City’s internal functions will quickly fill up the time allotted. Port Orchard will begin to go backwards economically in a rather short period.
And for those who may believe this is a self-serving position to take, answer this: If your employer were to say to you, “For the next three years, I need you to work more than the full-time hours you already put in every week, including nights, weekend and holidays, but I will only compensate you for 15 hours a week,” what would your response be?

The bottom line: The world is run by the people who show up. If the City is going to accomplish its goals and prosper in the future — especially considering the economic challenges the state is facing — a strong voice at all county, state, and federal levels is required. Being that voice is the Mayor’s job. The Finance Committee recognized this, and agreed to make this a full-time position in 2009 because it understands Port Orchard needs to step up to reality to take our rightful seat at the table — just as almost every other City our size has. By not doing so, Port Orchard will ultimately lose out to the other cities and things will simply remain stagnant — just as they’ve been for the past 30+ years. We deserve better.

14 thoughts on “Coppola on the Pros and Cons of Mayoral Pay Hike

  1. We may have gotten better candidates, then yourself, for mayor if they knew it would be an almost fully funded full time position. You knew the salary, you can resign if it is too much for you to handle.

  2. “…the pending Fred Meyer annexation alone will bring in enough sales tax revenue to cover the increase.”

    Has an annexation petition from the owner of the Fred Meyer property been submitted already? When? What’s the next step?

  3. Bob – Here’s what I got from James Weaver, PO development director:

    Fred Meyer is among 37 parcels on Bethel and Sedgwick Road involved in an annexation petition. The process was initiated in September, when owners of 10 percent of the total assessed property value submitted a petition to annex to the city council. The council accepted that petition Oct. 14, but split the annexation into two separate parts, the Sedgwick and Bethel annexation and a second annexation consisting of the four parcels next and south of Highway 16, now named the Geiger Road annexation.

    A citizens’ group is heading up a petition drive to obtain the required signatures from owners of 75 percent of the total AV. The city has in hand signatures representing 21.8 percent.

    The Fred Meyer property, is valued at $19.230 million out of a total AV for all 37 parcels of $42.425 million. City officials have been negotiating with Fred Meyer representatives. According the Weaver, the company’s real estate representative has given verbal approval of the annexation. All that’s left is what Weaver describes as more or less a formality of having a board member or vice president sign the petition. Due to vacations at the company, that won’t get addressed until next week.

    Additional steps: boundary review board, Kitsap County review and appeal window.

    See more on the annexation process and PO annexations here:
    http://www.cityofportorchard.us/MW_Annexation.htm

    I will try to find out from the city treasurer how much sales tax revenue they expect from the annexation and how much of that will come from FM.

  4. It appears that the annexation, if it goes through, would extend Port Orchard’s boundaries from where they now are, at the Sedgwick/SR-16 intersection, to encompass both sides of Sedgwick Road all the way over to the intersection with Bethel Road (where the Fred Meyer property is located).

    That’s a bit more than just “Fred Meyer.”

    Port Orchard would swallow up some more county revenue without taking a single new resident into its boundaries.

    I wonder at what point some residents of unincorporated areas will begin to wonder about being left out of the city once Port Orchard grabs the revenue that now provides part of their county government services.

    Maybe it’s worth a news article that does more than mention that Coppola approached Fred Meyer, or that Coppola has suggested to the county that the whole Bethel Corridor might be annexed sometime in the future. This is a specific and significant annexation that is already rolling.

  5. Maybe it is time for PO to look at getting a professional city manager…$62,000 should attract quality and trained applicants.

  6. King Lary has spoken and don’t worry it will happen. The City of PO won’t just get a mayor, they will get a dictator as well.

  7. I think what Diane Cook said about having more experienced candidates if the salary were known might be true. I’d want to know where the money would come from if this ‘pending’ annexation doesn’t happen. We’re facing some tough times…. might be time to renegotiate from 60,000?

  8. If the mayor admits that

    It’s impossible to do this job right, and hold another job.

    then why does he still hold another job? Seems to me his whining about how busy he is would be a lot easier to take if he gave his other job up BEFORE asking for more money.

    The cost to the taxpayers of putting this to a vote — even when run in conjunction with a regularly scheduled election — is a minimum of about $15,000. That’s money the City can better spend on other things — like parks, public safety, and capital improvements.

    …or raising the salary of the “Lord Mayor”.

  9. Bob – Here’s the link to a recent article I did on the Bethel Corridor.

    http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/2008/nov/11/port-orchard-eye-on-the-bethel-corridor/
    You’re right, I need to do a follow up and taker a closer look at the financial implications for both the city and the county. Notice in the article the city would like the county to suspend the revenue sharing agreement it has with all cities in the event of annexation, the purpose of which is to give the county a “soft landing” as it loses funding. Coppola says the trade-off would be, the county would no longer have the burden of developing infrastructure along Bethel Road.

  10. Chris, that’s the article I recalled — about the Bethel Corridor.

    It appears that, separate from any question of suspending the interlocal revenue-sharing (“soft landing”) agreement and annexation of the entire corridor by Port Orchard, the city is going ahead with annexation of the Fred Meyer end of the corridor.

    Once this annexation goes through, assuming it does, then the city will have both ends of the corridor within its boundaries. I suppose it can just “munch” from one end or the other as time goes on until it has taken the whole thing.

    As for the county’s infrastructure burden, I doubt that anything would happen for quite a while, since the county has little funding and little incentive to put money into an area that the city would then annex and take all the sales tax revenue and part of the property tax revenue. I think the Bethel Corridor will simply develop like Wheaton Way did — a little at a time, whether under the city or county.

    Since the city seems willing to toss out the “not like Wheaton Way” plans adopted by the county back in December 2000, I suppose the piecemeal “just like Wheaton Way” development will come after the city annexes it.

    Perhaps this piecemeal development is what the owners want. If not, what is the advantage to the owners of being annexed into Port Orchard?

  11. It is interesting that the City of Port Orchard and its Mayor are willing to absorb a large area to gain future tax money with the intent to increase the mayors salary. Mr. Meadows raises the same question I have a number of times to our County Commissioners regarding what happens to the rural non-incorporated Kitsap County taxpayer when Bremerton and Port Orchard complete their land grabs. Ms. Angel commented in one e-mail that “Ultimately the Growth Mgt. Act will have all areas annexed into the cities and the County may become a thing of the past.” It is so comforting to know my future may be as a Bremerton or Port Orchard city resident. It will make it very interesting to see how the Sheriff’s Office, County Roads and Parks will fit into the future picture. Maybe we can auction off County Parks to the highest bidder. Instead of a plan, Bremerton and Port Orchard are reacting to a few developers and property owners who see profit in their future by leaving County control and going to city management. I doubt Kitsap County, Bremerton, or Port Orchard are really thinking or caring about the rural taxpayer. We do not have the influence or money to affect the rocky path that has been selected. It will be another smoke and mirrors magic trick that will some day be reflected in our increased County tax bill and the cutback in service that will be in our rural future.
    Roger Gay
    South Kitsap

  12. Other than Bremerton City Limits, I would look hard at living within city limits again and the reason is cost.
    Presuming a person has their own well (submerged pump) and standard septic tank/drain field (I understand standard systems are no longer allowed in Kitsap) the utility costs are a fraction of what a city charges for water, septic.
    A city is supposed to offer perks to offset the high cost of living within a city… but what does PO offer? What do each of our KC towns offer the citizen to make up for the high cost of living within the city?
    What is the benefit to the home owner to live within city limits?

    I cannot imagine being without a county and county commissioners and the Sheriff’s Department for law enforcement.
    If I have a choice I would live in a good rural community and neighborhood.
    Sharon O’Hara

  13. Elliot,

    Think about this yourself, before criticizing the Mayor.

    Your Quote: “Seems to me his whining about how busy he is would be a lot easier to take if he gave his other job up BEFORE asking for more money.”

    Give us all a break. He’s not whining. He’s being responsible.

    So, you’d quit a full-time job in this economy, THEN ask a part-time employer to give you a full-time position? Boy, that is just plain stupid-logic.

    If you have a wife and child to feed, you just don’t do risky things like that with your income.

  14. Greg P,

    If you have no problem with a mayor who admits that “it’s impossible to do this job right, and hold another job” while he is in fact holding another job, and then asks for a pay raise so he can continue “not doing this job right”, then good for you.

    I, however, do have a problem with that.

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