Kent’s Independent Salary Commission meeting on March 13. (Cameron Sheppard/Sound Publishing)

Kent’s Independent Salary Commission meeting on March 13. (Cameron Sheppard/Sound Publishing)

Commission approves pay raises for Kent mayor and city council

The City of Kent’s Independent Salary Commission recently approved a pay raise for city council members and the mayor in a move that will make the city’s elected officials some of the highest paid among comparable cities in the area.

The salary commission, comprised of three appointed members, examined the salaries of elected officials in nearby cities, using statistics such as population, budget size and revenues to gauge what a fair salary would be for Kent’s elected leaders.

Kent has a 2023 population of over 137,000 people, but Kent’s mayor makes less than the mayors of Federal Way, Renton and Everett, despite having nearly 25,000 more people than the next largest city, which is Everett with 113,300 people.

Council members in Kent also currently make less than comparable cities with council members, who are considered part-time employees, making a monthly salary of $1,431. For reference, Redmond City Council members make a monthly salary of $1,554 with a population nearly half the size of Kent’s at around 75,000.

Before passing a motion to give salary raises to the mayor and the city council members, salary commission members Julie Miller, Pat Hanis and Todd Minor heard public comment from community members during their March 13 meeting.

The meeting took place at 2 p.m. Monday, March 13, and was hardly publicized by the city — only four people attended in-person and even fewer signed up to testify.

Marilyn Bowman testified that she lives on a fixed income from Social Security that is less than what city council members would make under the new proposal, and that many people living in Kent also make due with less income than what the “cost of living” adjusted salaries would be for city council members, if passed.

“If I can live on $17,000, why can’t they?” Bowman asked.

Todd Minor said that the salary raise for these elected positions is not just about keeping up with the cost of living, but also making it so that salary and income are not a barrier for community members who may want to run for public office and serve their community.

Minor said that many city council members were able to run because they have careers and businesses in addition to their part-time job as a city council member, meaning they were not counting on their salary as a council member to support themselves. And because only certain kinds of people can afford to run for city council, Minor said the governing body “doesn’t truly represent the community it serves.”

Minor said he hopes the newly proposed salary raises will incentivize more candidates to run for public office, and he maintained that no new taxes would be added in order to pay for this salary raise.

“I don’t want compensation to be a barrier,” he said. “It is about inclusivity.”

Before the March 13 commission meeting, it had been proposed that city council members would make $3,000 a month, which is more than city council members make in Everett and Renton, and more than double what Federal Way City Council members make. Federal Way has a population of nearly 102,000 people to Kent’s nearly 138,000 people.

Pat Hanis said he was comfortable approving a wage that put Kent City Council members earning more than comparable cities as he believed it was “just a matter of time” before other cities reach around the mark of $3,000 a month as well.

Everett City Council members make a monthly salary of $2,511, with the council president earning $3,265 a month.

The salary schedule motion passed by Kent’s Independent Salary Commission included that the council president would make an extra 15 percent to other members. It also removed a provision for council members to receive an annual 2.5 percent salary increase as a “cost of living adjustment.” However, this provision was removed for council members in favor of a yearly commission decision on whether to increase or decrease council salaries.

On March 13, the salary commission made a motion to approve a 2.5 percent annual cost of living for the mayor’s salary, as well as a raise in mayor’s pay from $14,012 a month to $16,500. This raise will put Kent Mayor Dana Ralph’s yearly salary at $198,000. Renton’s mayor is currently the highest paid at $200,172 per year followed by Everett’s mayor at $194,952.

During the commission’s discussion, Minor said that the salary value is not about the person currently holding the office, but what the position entails and demands.

In comparison to pay by the state of Washington, the governor receives $190,6532 per year, the attorney general earns $175,274 and the superintendent of public instruction makes $155,678, according to figures set by the Washington Citizens’ Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials.

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