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Mayor's salary increase enters third phase

The quest to increase Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola’s salary to a full-time level entered its third phase on Tuesday night, with the city council’s approval to explore allocating the money from four different sources.

“This is a good plan,” said City Treasurer Kris Tompkins, in her last appearance before the council prior to her scheduled retirement this month. “The money to pay his salary will come from several different funds, as it is with other city employees who have responsibilities in several areas.”

The mayor’s salary and benefits on a part-time level added up to $29,106 per year — full time adds up to $85,147.

As approved by the council last year, the difference between the two levels would be taken from lodging tax funds for six months, with a re-evaluation scheduled for June.

These plans were set awry when the council learned that once a mayor’s salary has been raised it cannot be decreased for the remainder of the term.

While there are no statements that the mayor’s job is not full time and Coppola does not deserve a full time salary, the original idea was to follow a performance-based model. So if he was not able to generate extra money through his direct effort he would not maintain the higher salary.

Concurrently, the city learned that allocating the mayor’s salary from lodging taxes was not legal, causing it to pay part of City Clerk Patty Kirkpatrick’s salary from that fund and use money allocated for Kirkpatrick to pay Coppola.

The determination that that the city will need to maintain they mayor’s salary at the full time level had two results — deflation of the idea of a performance-based model and a scramble to make up the difference between the two salary levels.

The new plan is to draw money from the street, water-sewer and storm drainage funds in order to pay the difference.

During her presentation of the new plan to the council, Tomkins said that drawing the salary increase from those funds was what she favored all along, instead of using the lodging tax funds.

“That sounds a little like, ‘I told you so,’” Councilman Jim Colbank said.

While there was no vote taken, Colbank, Jerry Childs and Carolyn Powers agreed with the idea, while Fred Olin and Fred Chang were opposed.

“I like this idea better than using the lodging tax,” Chang said. “Still, I think there should be public input about how this should be done.”

Chang said he was still “intrigued” by the performance-based model, and would like the council to have the ability to raise and lower the mayor’s salary based on accomplishment.

Colbank, who voiced a preference to proceed with the plan, also expressed disappointment that the council had apparently lost that control.

“I would like to base the mayor’s salary on established goals,” he said.

The plan will be fine-tuned and presented to the council for approval prior to discussion of the 2010 budget.

If the plan is presented it will likely pass, as the council has consistently voted 5-2 in all matters of salary increases (with Chang and Olin dissenting).

“Right now Port Orchard has the right leadership with Lary at the head,” Childs said. “We want to keep that team together.”

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