Mayor David Condon announced today that he will not take the controversial 4-percent ($7,000) wage increase proposed in his 2015 budget. The raises for other top-ranking city officials will remain in his budget.
The raises became controversial last week after a majority of the Spokane City Council voiced concerns that higher ups were getting raises while several of their spending requests went unmet. More about that here.
In a press release about the decision today, the mayor said the decision was "a show of support for a community discussion about the cost of city government." Councilman Mike Fagan announced earlier today that he will host a public forum on Nov. 14 at 10 a.m. in the City Council Briefing Center to discuss possible changes to city code or the city charter, which dictates that the mayor's salary should match the highest paid city employee. Condon says he's open to that discussion.
The mayor said last week he planned to donate his raise back to the city in order to pay for multicultural heritage events the city had planned but could not fund in the budget. He says he will still donate $1,000 of his current salary to each of those four events.
The city council has the final say on the budget, but the council and mayor disagreed last week on whether city law mandated the raises Condon proposed or whether they were optional. (The mayor can veto items in the council's budget, but a five-member liberal voting bloc on the council means his vetoes would likely be overturned.) Council President Ben Stuckart, who called Condon's argument that he had to take the raise because of city law "ludicrous," says today that Condon forgoing the raise will make upcoming budget discussions "easier."
"We can [decrease salaries in the council's final budget]. We have the ultimate authority, but I think it is a gray area on his raise, which is why other mayors have done it themselves," Stuckart says, referring to former Mayor Mary Verner, who took a lower-than-mandated salary during her term.
Stuckart says the council may also be limited in its ability to decrease the raises Condon proposes giving the fire and police chiefs, but that he thinks the council will be able to cut the raises Condon proposed giving to other city department heads.
Here's the mayor's full press release:
MAYOR TO FORGO CHARTER-MANDATED WAGE INCREASE
APPLAUDS FAGAN FOR LEADING DIALOGUE ON COST OF GOVERNMENT
Spokane Mayor David Condon will decline the salary increase mandated by the 2011 voter-approved City Charter amendment as a show of support for a community discussion about the cost of City government.
Councilmember Mike Fagan will host a public forum on Nov. 14 at 10 a.m. in the City Council Briefing Center to address the topic. Condon supports the discussion as part of an ongoing dialogue about keeping City government affordable to those it serves. He intends to honor a pledge to donate $1,000 from his current salary to each of the remaining upcoming multicultural heritage months.
“We strive every day to keep City government affordable,” Condon said. “The budget we have proposed makes us safer, stronger and smarter. We ask ourselves every day, ‘Is what we are proposing affordable?’ A community conversation about the cost of government is a very timely and appropriate way to be accountable.”
The 2015 budget proposed by the mayor includes $1.7 million in contractual wage increases. Cost of living increases resulting from labor agreements account for approximately $1 million of that total. Contractual step and longevity increases make up the balance.
Proposed increases to the salaries of the mayor, council president, City Council members, police chief and fire chief are cost of living increases that are included in the proposed 2015 budget. Four members of the mayor’s Cabinet are among the nearly 300 City employees who are due step increases. Those increases are included in the budget proposal.
Voters approved an amendment to the City Charter in August 2011 setting the mayor’s salary equivalent to the highest paid City employee. The Salary Review Commission recommended a raise for City Council members last spring.