During the last few weeks, the Lynnwood City Council has spent time discussing the city’s upcoming 2023 salary schedule, which oversees the salaries for all city staff in Lynnwood. And that issue will come again this Monday night, Dec. 5.
At the council’s Nov. 21 meeting – where the schedule was introduced – a few councilmembers voiced their concerns with some of the proposed salaries.
Councilmember Patrick Decker said he didn’t feel comfortable approving higher taxes for city residents when he saw the increases of some of the city staff’s salaries regardless of how many responsibilities they had. The council ended up voting unanimously Nov. 21 to decrease the property tax levy.
“The median household income in Lynnwood is $63,000,” Decker said. “That’s not per person; that’s per household. A lot of those are dual income. However, a step-seven director in the City of Lynnwood is making … $216,000 a year before benefits. [After benefits] we’re assuming this is around a $280,000 position. And we’re going to raise taxes on the residents through the real estate tax while we are paying close to $300,000 to directors in the city. I can’t justify raising taxes to pay essentially $300,000 salaries.”
However, some councilmembers were supportive of the salary increases. At the Nov. 21 meeting, Councilmember Shannon Sessions said she liked seeing that the city was working to take care of its employees, especially at a time where inflation rates are skyrocketing.
Sessions said that while those salaries may seem high upfront, very few staff in Lynnwood are at a step-seven director position – the highest level on the city’s salary scale. She also reminded Decker that educated individuals with professional expertise should be paid well for their craft, adding she didn’t feel like they should be compared to the average Lynnwood resident who may not even have a college degree.
Some Lynnwood residents are also unhappy about the salary schedule and how it seemed to be added to the budget discussion at the last minute.
“I have never seen a lack of transparency and lack of openness on the part of the city administration as we witnessed [Nov. 21],” former Lynnwood City Councilmember Ted Hikel said. “Last-minute changes in the long-overdue salary ordinance were thrown on the table and you, council, are asked to overlook the lack of transparency by the city administration and just vote yes.”
The council was set to vote on the salary schedule at its Nov. 28 meeting, but Councilmember Decker moved to postpone the decision until council had more time to discuss the wage increases.
That motion passed unanimously.
Earlier this year, the city hired Cabot Dow Associates to conduct a salary survey, which helped guide some of the adjustments in the proposed salary schedule, said City Manager of Communications and Public Affairs Nathan MacDonald.
In an email, MacDonald briefly explained why the city is proposing these salary increases.
“The proposed annual salary schedule accounts for a variety of factors,” MacDonald said. “The cost of living/Consumer Price Index (CPI) was considered in adjusting the schedule as it relates to our non-union represented employees. Over the past several years, the salary schedule has been adjusted upward at a rate of 90% of an annual CPI to reflect the impacts of inflation.”
MacDonald went on to say that while the city doesn’t necessarily struggle with employee retention, offering decent wages ensures that city staff are being taken care of and helps give Lynnwood employees a sense of stability in their jobs.
“The city seeks to pay its employees fairly and to recruit and retain high-quality candidates,” he said. “Keeping fair pay and keeping up with a percentage of the CPI helps with employee retention.”
In addition, MacDonald said that director wage increases – specifically the ones Decker was unsure about – are not out of the ordinary, especially with the recent rise of inflation.
“Director salaries were adjusted to reflect 90% of the CPI from 2022 rates of pay,” he said. “No ‘raises’ beyond that are proposed for director level positions.”
Representatives from Cabot Dow Associates who conducted the city salary survey will come before the council at its Dec. 5 meeting to further discuss their process and why they proposed the increases they did.
The full salary schedule can be viewed here.
–By Lauren Reichenbach