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Port Orchard mayor seeks 'performance based' raise

The Port Orchard City Council this week will consider a proposal that would essentially triple the salary of Mayor Lary Coppola. But the raise would not be permanent and would be tied to his ability to bring more money to the city.

The raise would go into effect Jan. 1 and be re-examined after six months. If there are no tangible results, the salary would fall to the previous level.

In that sense, the performance-based structure resembles working on commission, which would represent a new model for public servants’ salaries.

The proposal would raise Coppola’s projected yearly pay from $19,738 to $62,169 a year, bringing it to the level of that earned by the mayor of Poulsbo.

The money to support the increase would come from hotel and motel lodging tax revenues, from which $32,000 was previously allocated to hire a tourism director. In order to make the hire, the city would have needed to at least match those funds, which it was not able to do.

The idea emerged to take $20,000 from the money allocated and make it part of Coppola’s salary, which would cover the increase for the first six months of 2009. As proposed, no city monies would be used.

After this period, the council would meet to decide whether or not to continue paying the salary at this rate or revert to a part-time status.

This would depend on Coppola’s success in bringing in new funds to cover the raise, or whether a major annexation — such as the Bethel Corridor — would generate enough revenue to continue paying the higher salary.

“The sales tax that we get from Fred Meyer will be enough to cover the entire salary at the higher level,” Coppola said.

During his time as mayor, Coppola has been a tireless promoter of the city and has used his pre-existing business contacts to do so.

Coppola, a local businessman, was elected a year ago with 69 percent of the vote. Since then, he has hired new people for key posts and aggressively moved toward annexation.

In this respect, he feels he has already earned his $19,738 yearly salary.

“In 2007, we contracted out $524,000 in engineering fees,” he said. “After I hired two new people, we were able to bring most of that in-house and saved $400,000. I was also the one who directly approached Fred Meyer about annexing into the city."

Coppola has also approached the county to speed up the revenue-sharing agreement so the city does not have to wait four years to get the full sales tax revenue.

Coppola said he knew the mayor’s job would require more than the 20-hours-a-week salary covers, but thought it could be accomplished in 40 hours a week.

This turned out to be a significant understatement, since he is always approached about city business whenever he goes out in public.

“We’re the only local city that does not have a full-time mayor,” Coppola said. “I am paid a part-time salary and spend 50 or 60 hours a week performing my responsibilities, but I am paid on a part-time basis.”

In this respect, the salary hike would be temporary and be addressed during each budget cycle.

If the economy improves and funding sources are found, the council could raise the mayor’s salary permanently, which would affect Coppola and his successors.

City Treasurer Kris Tompkins said it was important to resolve the issue before the next election, scheduled for 2011. Anyone running for office needs to know how much the job pays before declaring the candidacy, and the filing fee is based on one percent of the yearly salary.

The mayoral pay raise, even if approved, has no guarantees.

Since it is based on revenue projections, the mayor will not receive any funds if the projections fall short.

The salary proposal, along with the rest of the city budget, will be discussed at an open meeting at 7 p.m. on Dec. 1 in Port Orchard City Hall's council chambers. Public comment will be invited at that time.

The budget will be approved at the next regular council meeting, at 7 p.m. on Dec. 9.

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