For the first time since Lakewood became a city two decades ago, the City Council is getting a raise.
The $500-a-month increase for each of the seven elected council members went into effect this month.
“We feel that the increase is overdue,” said Stephen Mazoff, chairman of the independent salary commission that recommended the raise. “We’re not overpaying and we’re not underpaying.”
Council salary rose from $700 a month to $1,200. The deputy mayor salary increased from $800 to $1,300 a month. The mayor’s pay went from $900 to $1,400 a month.
The City Council appointed the five-member commission to review whether a raise was warranted, and if so, by how much.
The commission looked at cities with populations of 50,000 or more and a similar government structure as Lakewood. They also looked at cities with similar sized labor unions and comparable labor contracts.
After three public meetings this summer, the commission determined that a raise was necessary in Pierce County’s second-largest city.
“The inescapable conclusion was our council members were way, way down on the bottom of the scale,” Mazoff said.
The increase brings compensation in line with council salaries in other South Sound cities.
In neighboring University Place, which has 27,000 fewer people than Lakewood, council members make $1,408 a month. The mayor makes $1,688 a month.
In Puyallup, which has 20,000 fewer people, the council makes $1,142 a month. The mayor receives $1,333.
Council members in both cities also receive medical benefits.
That is not the case in Lakewood.
“The Lakewood council has no benefits. We have no pension, no medical, no car allowance,” Mayor Don Anderson said. “Probably half or more cities of similar size have something like that.”
This is the first time an independent salary commission has formed in Lakewood.
“It’s been almost 20 years since anybody has looked at it,” Anderson said about council salaries. “Once every 20 years deserves a look.”
The raise “reflects a conservative Lakewood approach,” he said.
When deciding how much to increase the pay, commission members considered the time commitment of the part-time council positions, Mazoff said. In addition to government meetings, most council members regularly attend community events and serve as city liaisons to community groups and advisory boards, he said.
The monthly increase adds $42,000 a year to the city’s budget. It will be covered by the general fund.
The mayor and council appointed the five-member commission from a pool of applicants. Members were Mazoff, Connie Coleman-Lacadie, Fae Crabill, John Fuller and former Councilwoman Helen McGovern-Pilant.