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Mayor's salary further defined by performance-based model

There is no dispute among city council members or the public that Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola deserves a full-time salary for his efforts in local revitalization and re-development, as well as his regular duties.

However, it still remains to be determined just how the raise will be funded.

“The question was whether the mayor was going to bring in enough to justify the raise,” said City Councilman John Clauson. “As far as I am concerned, he has done this. If he continues on this path and the economy improves, it will be worth it to the city.”

The worst-case scenario is that the economy does not improve, and Coppola’s salary will revert back to the half-time level.

The council is scheduled to vote on whether or not to extend the agreement at the June 23 regular meeting.

In December, the council voted to increase Coppola’s annual compensation from from $19,738 to $62,169, in parity with the mayor of Poulsbo, for a six-month period.

The plan was to re-examine the matter after that time, and continue the arrangement if Coppola’s efforts at annexation and other fund acquisition offset the increase.

This is the second proposed revision of Coppola’s salary increase. Initially, the idea was to draw funds from tourism tax revenues, but this was flagged by the state auditor.

The next proposal made City Clerk Patty Kirkpatrick responsible for tourism, and draw the tax funds to pay a portion of her salary.

The portion saved, then, would go to Coppola.

The latest proposal, developed by City Treasurer Kris Tompkins, channels money from three funds — street, water-sewer and storm drainage. The reasoning is similar to the argument supporting the allocation of tourism funds: The addressing of these issues are all a part of the mayor’s job description, so it is logical to allocate some of the budget to the person responsible for the department.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Clauson suggested that if Coppola or his successor should not perform up to the council’s standards, the salary could be adjusted to its previous level.

Afterwards, City Attorney Greg Jacoby referred to state law, determining that a city council can raise or lower a mayor’s salary at will.

This would result in a “report card” system, whereby a mayor’s salary would be affected by the council’s evaluation of their performance.

Clauson said he saw nothing wrong with such a situation, as long as the judgement was based on the issues and not personalities.

Coppola said that he now works 50 to 60 hours a week, and that he doesn’t object to the council’s control of his salary. “I’m from the private sector and I’m used to being rewarded for productivity,” he said. “I’m giving them their money’s worth.”

Council members Fred Chang and Fred Olin have indicated they will oppose the action as submitted, not because Coppola does not deserve the raise but because they feel that the question should be put to a public vote.

“I am in favor of the idea of a full-time mayor,” Chang said. “Even so, I think it is something that a lot of people will want to weigh in on. I don’t like the way this has been funded, that the finance committee is paying the mayor’s salary with whatever money it happens to have available.”

The mayor’s salary is set by the council as per state law, and this will not change. Any public vote would be of an advisory nature, and would not be binding.

However, Olin agrees the public should have a voice in the action, even if it is only to voice an opinion.

Chang was the only dissenter during the last vote. Olin, who was not present during the vote due to a previous commitment, did not change his plans when it was clear he had no support for his position.

Similarly, Olin has no plans to introduce a resolution to call for a public advisory vote unless he has enough votes on the council for it to pass.

Clauson said he does not favor the idea of an advisory vote, since it would remove the flexibility the council has in setting salaries.

If the public shows support for the higher pay rate and the council must make budget cuts, it could cause public discontent, according to Clauson.

Local municipalities pay for local elections on a sliding scale, depending on how many other candidates are running.

According to Kitsap County Elections Supervisor Dolores Gilmore, it would cost Port Orchard about $1,000 to sponsor an advisory vote, an amount Olin believes “would be well-spent.”

The resolution would need to be written and submitted by Aug. 8, and its wording would be determined by the council.

Gilmore said Port Orchard has not held an advisory vote in at least 20 years. The last advisory vote in Kitsap County was in 2004, when voters soundly rejected the idea of a countywide fireworks ban.

During that year, about 119,000 voters cast their ballots countywide, with all but 7,000 of these expressing a preference on the fireworks ban, according to Gilmore.

“You can never tell how people will react to an advisory vote,” she said. “In 2004, more people voted for or against the fireworks ban than for some of the other resolutions.”

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