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Langley OKs budget, mayor’s salary

Langley will retain a full-time mayor and the job will continue to pay $53,000.

The decision was galvanized Monday when the city council approved the 2014 budget in a 4-0 vote. Councilman Bruce Allen was not present.

Fleshed out with the public in several recent meetings, the $11.8 million budget saw few, if any, criticisms. Perhaps the only concern mentioned related to the mayor’s pay, but the issue got little traction with decision makers. Indeed, the topic was not even broached until after the vote was cast and the budget approved.

It was then that Councilwoman Rene Neff addressed the issue, and only then to make clear her support of the current full-time model and Mayor Fred McCarthy. She said she, past councils and a vote of the people have all endorsed the existing model, and that she continues to believe it’s the best path for Langley.

“This could be a part-time job but it’s much better as a full-time job,” Neff said.

Previous administrations have operated under a mayor/administrator format. The model was switched to just a full-time mayor under Paul Samuelson’s term, cutting the administrator’s position and raising the mayor’s salary from about $31,000 to the current $53,000. The amount is set by city ordinance.

Believing the job should be part-time, the model flopped back under Larry Kwarsick in 2012, but state rules prohibit changing elected officials’ rate of pay during a term and the ordinance remained the same. The appointment and later election of McCarthy saw the issue arise again, as he sought to revert back to the full-time status.

Seeking to end the issue once and for all, Neff went a step further from her statements of support Monday with a proposal to make the current $53,000 salary permanent. The job is a lot of work, she said, and challenged anyone to follow McCarthy around for day. She added that Kwarsick was able to work part-time by shuttling duties to the former public works director.

“I think it was a lot,” she said.

Councilman Jim Sundberg seconded Neff’s support, saying the concerns about the mayor’s pay “don’t really hold up well” when stacked up against the last mayoral appointment process.

“The difficulty was choosing among highly qualified people,” he said. “There is quite a talent pool in our community.”

Neff and Sundberg are the two council members who selected McCarthy during the appointment process earlier this year. Only three of the five members of the council were allowed to vote as councilmen Hal Seligson and Bruce Allen were also seeking the appointment. Former Councilman Doug Allderdice voted for Seligson.

Seligson, who did not seek reelection in November and served his last night on the council Monday, called the initial $31,000 mayor’s pay a placeholder and suggested the creation of a compensation commission.

Recently-elected Councilman Thomas Gill agreed with the existing full-time mayor model but was less sure about making the pay increase permanent, due to the prohibitions state law places on changing the rate during a term. The problem is taking it back if need be, he said.

“We can always raise the salary but we can’t lower it,” Gill said.

In the end, the council moved to discuss the matter further during a council retreat planned for early 2014.

A good portion of the city’s budget is tied to the major overhaul of Second Street in the commercial core. Utilities will be replaced, the street re-done and the sidewalks will be widened for about $2.1 million starting in January. The hope of city leaders is to create a better functioning space for people to shop, eat and relax in Langley.

 

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