[EDITOR’S NOTE: This column by Earl Gipson is a view of SeaTac city government. It does not necessarily reflect the views of The SeaTac Blog nor its staff. We are seeking additional regular columnists to reflect different opinions and views of SeaTac residents. Those interested can e-mail us at [email protected].]
by Earl Gipson
Surprise! SeaTac Councilmembers make how much?
Hey folks and all that. I have to talk about something that I (and others) missed years ago and I was sitting right there when it happened (and whining about some other City screw up). It has to do with Councilmember’s compensation to the tune of $18,000 more than their base salary of $12,000 annually ($14.4K for the un-elected Mayor).
This occurred in 2010 and it was agenda Bill 3380 (here) on Page 53. What brought this to my attention was the posting of Councilmember’s expenses a couple of weeks ago (here). It is the fifth line down and noted as ICMA 457.
Rule changes to Medicare triggered this
Councilmembers prior to 2010 had contributions made to their medical insurance (savings) via a VEBA program for themselves and spouses to the tune of ~$1,293 per month (2010). If you want an explanation of VEBA just google it. The new rule was that Councilmembers had to use any other medical insurance before using VEBA. Most, if not all Councilmembers either had health insurance through their employers or through Medicare, etc. The option was to switch to a 457B plan or keep the VEBA (can only be used for medical expenses). There is no real net change in costs to us SeaTac taxpayers.
What the heck is a 457 plan?
The 457 Plan retirement fund is only available to government employees (sweet) and select non-profits with restrictions with no early withdrawal penalty (you only have to pay income taxes) if you withdraw from it before reaching 59 ½ years. This is cash money (if they so chose), inheritable, and has nothing to do with medical. Since this plan is considered “deferred compensation”, even though voted on in 2010 it could not go into effect till 2014. They cannot vote themselves a raise for their current term in office.
There is no Cactus outrage here
In 2009, at a Council retreat I proposed the Council get a raise. Since I was “not getting along” with the Council, they all looked around to see if a ventriloquist had shown up when I said it. If a Councilmember does their job right, $12K a year does not come close to compensating for the hours it takes. I know how much time I spend keeping track of things, staying informed (missed this one). Good thing I don’t sleep much and have excess energy.
Now that we know
Many have balked at running for Council because of the crappy pay, long hours, and abuse that sometimes is heaped on them. The abuse and long hours won’t change but at least the pay ain’t so bad anymore ($30K a year), however we should expect competent Councilmembers without personal agendas and the entire City’s best interests at the forefront. I can’t say we had that in the past. With a bit of a hiccup at the start of last year, it is a new day.
The Council may not be able to vote themselves a raise immediately, but they sure can vote a reduction in the 457 Plan City contribution right away. As long as they don’t run deficits, bloat the staff, violate ethics (and get us sued), and come up with an ILA with the Port that does not steal from us (more than the port already has) they are worth every nickel they get. Looking at the expenses, a couple of Councilmembers (you can guess which ones I am talking about) need to cut down on travel that we pay for. I just offer some friendly advice.
Transparency at its best
Acting City Manager Joe Scorcio was the one who decided to post the Council’s expenses and will do so quarterly. Myself and others would never known about the “little” perk without it and I applaud his efforts on this and the staff’s efforts on the Code of Ethics. Lots of work to be done but yes, it is a new day in SeaTac. Let’s make sure we never fall back on the old ways. “Expect little from someone and that is exactly what you will get.” That was the old way.
Cactus Song Selection
How about an old Beatles song? Read into what you want.
Don’t Let Me Down. Beatles-1969: