Tacoma mayor and council members to get pay cuts, but smaller ones than first suggested

Tacoma City Hall, as seen in 2013. A salary commission has proposed cutting the pay for Tacoma’s mayor and City Council members starting in 2018.
Tacoma City Hall, as seen in 2013. A salary commission has proposed cutting the pay for Tacoma’s mayor and City Council members starting in 2018. Staff file, 2013

Tacoma’s mayor and City Council members are about to get a pay cut, but it’s a much more modest decrease than one proposed two years ago.

Both the mayor and the members of the council will get about $1,000 less in annual pay starting in 2018. The mayor’s annual salary will drop to $100,000 and members of the council to $45,000. The deputy mayor position, which rotates on an annual basis, will be paid $50,000, about $750 less than the current salary.

That’s less of a decrease than previously recommended by a citizen commission that decides salary levels for Tacoma’s elected officials.

In a 2015 report, that commission recommended dropping the mayor’s salary to $78,000 and the council members’ to $38,000 starting in 2018. It also voted to end annual 2.75 percent cost-of-living increases the council members and mayor were getting each year.

In its report, the commission said it would delay the effective date of those changes until 2018 to allow time for more research on salaries “and, if warranted, allow for at least some reduction within the next few years.”

The 2018 date was chosen in part because the salaries of elected officials can’t be cut while they’re in office, so the commission decided to wait until there would be several seats up for election on the council — five positions are up in November — to implement the salary changes, said city attorney Bill Fosbre. Council members whose seats are not up for re-election this year will stay at their current salaries until the next election cycle, Fosbre said.

In 2016, after more study, the commission confirmed its decision to cut council members’ pay significantly and to get rid of the annual 2.75 percent increases.

This year, after more consideration, the commission decided to drop the salaries by a much smaller amount, but it still cut the annual 2.75 percent increase council members have been getting, starting in 2018. The latest proposal was published Tuesday as part of the City Council’s agenda packet.

“I think they did another survey of other cities that had comparable sizes and determined the salaries were too low, they needed to stay roughly where they were,” Fosbre said.

The memo supporting the decreases from the commission chairperson doesn’t go into much detail. It does state the commission surveyed elected officials and interviewed the mayor and a former council member in coming up with its decision on salaries. It also listed a few other considerations, including:

  • “Continuing recognition of the uniqueness of Tacoma, economically, geographically, and politically.”
  • “Balancing the desire to fairly recognize the demands placed on elected officials while recognizing that, in running for office, elected officials are also making an explicit commitment to public service.”
  • “Encouraging Tacoma citizens in all districts to not be dissuaded from running for public office for financial reasons.”

Tacoma voters created the seven-member salary commission in 2014 by amending the city charter. According to the charter change, the commission’s final proposal must be accepted by the City Council without modification.

Candice Ruud: 253-597-8441, @candiceruud