WALLA WALLA -- Walla Walla County commissioners Monday agreed to freeze their own pay through 2016, but said they will look at other elected official's salaries next year with an eye towards raising them if the economy improves.
Commissioners resolved to revisit the salary issue for other offices after determining state law would allow them to increase, but not decrease, the pay of officials who do not fix their own compensation.
Commissioners cannot do the same thing for their salaries, said Commissioner Greg Tompkins. Commissioners have to set their pay two years in advance to conform with state law, which requires the board to fix its salaries prior to the election of any commissioner seat. Two seats, the Position 1 seat held by Jim Johnson and the Position 2 seat held by Perry Dozier, are up for election in November. Tompkins' seat is not up for election until 2014.
Monday's discussion was a continuation of a discussion commissioners started during their April 24 meeting. Under a resolution approved in 2010, commissioners' froze elected officials salaries starting this year through 2014 due to the economic downturn.
At the April meeting, county Assessor Debra Antes and county Auditor Karen Martin asked to be allowed to research the issue and present a recommendation to the board. In a letter to the board, the officials said the felt the economy would recover in the next few years and proposed an increase in the elected officials' salaries of 7 percent in 2015 with an additional 3.5 percent for 2016.
While commissioners said they too hoped the economy would rebound, they also agreed there was no guarantee it would. "I think this is a really difficult time to do a lot of (economic) forecasting," Johnson said. "I think it would be prudent to hang back."
Dozier said he was comfortable with freezing his salary, but was also comfortable with being able to come back later and adjust other elected officials' salaries. After further discussion, commissioners approved a motion to have a resolution drawn up that would freeze their salaries, but revisit other officials' salaries in one year.
Monday's discussion drew a small audience. Along with Antes and Martin were county Sheriff John Turner, county Treasurer Gordon Heimbigner and other several other private citizens.
Commissioners are scheduled to approve the salary resolution at their regular meeting today.