City Council approves over $66,000 in salary increases for city employees

LYNNNWOOD, Wash., December 15, 2021 – During its December 13 Business Meeting and last meeting of the year, Lynnwood City Council members witnessed new city officials take their oaths of office, issued a proclamation for Refugees and Migrants Day, and discussed at length various Business Items pertaining to the city’s finances.

Debates surrounding salary increases for city employees

One Business Item in particular that sparked discussion was the ordinance for the city’s 2022 Salary Schedule, which related to the classification of several City employee positions. Christine Frizzell, operating in Position 1 on the City Council, brought the ordinance to the floor, and Councilwoman Ross seconded it. 

Frizzell explained that the City’s Human Resources department presents the council with a new Salary Schedule every year based on costs of living and union contracts and adopts other adjustments as needed. “And this is in accord with the City’s Municipal Code,” she added.

President George Hurst motioned to delay the reclassifications from the salary ordinance, and Vice President Jim Smith seconded the motion. Hurst suggested the reclassification of the positions “should really be something that we do through the budget process.”

“To do it as one of the last-minute things we do for the year—I just don’t think it’s appropriate,” he added.

Smith also made a case for the motion to delay the reclassifications. After Frizzell recounted how the council had discussed the salary reclassifications previously, Smith noted that while discussions have taken place, they “never did get a comparison” to the salary updates for positions in other cities.

“These positions have not been compared to other cities. It’s being proposed that all these positions be maxed out. Now, maybe some of these should be, but we don’t know that,” said Smith. “And I think you’d want to send this to do further study because I don’t feel comfortable with it. I’d hope that you don’t feel comfortable with it. We’re only talking about bringing it back next year.”

Smith also pointed out how the council is giving raises to city employees while refusing to lower taxes for Lynnwood residents. “Over this last year, we’ve had two attempts to give just a little bit of tax relief to the people—to the citizens of Lynnwood. And both of those were vetoed,” he said.

“And I want to put this in perspective that these proposed changes are going to cost the city of Lynnwood—just for these people who are making $160,000 or $170,000 a year—these raises are going to cost us well over $125,000, maybe $150,000.”

“The fact of the matter is, we’re not taking care of the people of Lynnwood,” Smith stated. “What we’re doing is giving more and more money to people, and again it’s costing the city an additional $150,000 a year, but we couldn’t give a tax break.”

After mentioning how some residents in lower-income brackets would like to make $25,000 a year, Smith explains. “With this proposed salary ordinance, we’re just giving a $25,000 raise to these people, and again it costs more than just $25,000,” he asserted.

Salaries and equity

Councilwoman Ruth Ross countered Smith’s opposition, pointing to the fact that the directors currently aren’t equally compensated. She emphasized that it was an “equity issue.” 

“We have some directors who are not paid the same as other directors. That’s hardly fair,” she said. “I don’t understand why this is such a problem.”

“These are professionals; can’t we just pay them that way?” Ross concluded.

Councilwoman Shannon Sessions concurred with Ross, saying, “This is a pretty routine position for the situation that we’re in—making these equitable positions. We’re not talking about folks with the average minimum wage job here. We’re talking about people who have a huge responsibility, who have added responsibilities and jobs to their workload.” 

“It costs us a lot less to do this than to add more employees that it really should take to do all this work,” Sessions argued. “So we’re actually getting a bigger buck doing it this way on the backs of people who are already overworked. So, this is not a conspiracy, this is not a big deal, this is something that needs to happen, and we need to do it before the end of the year.” 

Councilwoman Julieta Altamirano-Crosby contributed to the equity argument, saying, “We must do what is fair.” She pointed to the employees slated for the pay increase who are women or members of the BIPOC community. She suggested that the salary adjustments align with the City’s principles of diversity and equity.

President Hurst challenged the equity argument, saying, “We’ve known that these positions have been at these grades for a long time, and if we want to be equitable, they should have changed these a long time ago, and not now.”

“The reclassifications right now,” he continued, “is not in the name of equity; it’s in the name of giving people raises.” 

He also explained that it won’t always be the case that members of the BIPOC community will occupy these positions and suggested refocusing on the positions themselves and not the identities of those who hold them.

Smith also challenged the notion that the salary ordinance was an equity issue. “This is not an equity issue. Various positions have different pay grades,” he said.

“But I also want to point out […] that most of these positions are going from $166,254 a year to $184,537 a year. None of these positions are ones that have been hurting financially,” Smith claimed. 

“These are basically bonuses. This is not an equity issue. […] This is just giving people money. And it’s giving people on the highest end of the spectrum—they got all these vacations earlier this year, and now we’re giving them these big raises. This is not good business,” he concluded.

Vote to delay the 2022 Salary Schedule Fails

Mayor Nicola Smith then brought the discussion back to vote on the motion at hand: delaying the reclassified positions from the salary schedule.

The vote went as follows:

  • Hurst – Yes
  • Ross – No
  • Sessions – No
  • Smith – Yes
  • Altamirano-Crosby – No
  • Decker – Yes
  • Frizzell – No

The amendment failed, 4 – 3. 

Vote to approve the 2022 Salary Schedule Ordinance

Before voting on the salaries, Hurst acknowledged that he understands the salaries should update according to living costs. Councilwoman Sessions stressed the importance of retaining city employees, and Councilman Decker expressed his concern about not reviewing comparative data before issuing the salary increases.

“We asked for the data, and we just never got the data, that makes me uncomfortable with spending money in this way,” Decker explained. “When I started on the council, I said I wanted to be data-driven, and I just never saw data to be able to make this decision. And that’s where my concern is at.”

Below are the changes to the 2022 Salary Schedule:

  • Assistant City Administrator cost of living adjustment and pay grade increase of 10.98% to a new hourly rate range: $74.97 to $96.51 per hour.
  • Communication and Community Engagement Manager cost of living adjustment and pay grade increase of 20.94% to a new hourly rate range: $55.32 to $71.22 per hour.
  • Human Resource Director cost of living adjustment and pay grade increase of 10.98% to a new hourly rate range: $74.97 to $96.51 per hour.
  • Information Technology Director cost of living adjustment and pay grade increase of 10.98% to a new hourly rate range: $74.97 to $96.51 per hour.
  • City Clerk hourly rate range: $41.56 to $53.51 per hour.
  • Police Records Program Technician hourly rate range: $33.28 to $37.53 per hour.
  • Master Custody Sergeant hourly rate range: $37.65 to $41.29 per hour.

The vote for the 2022 Salary Schedule Ordinance went as follows:

  • Ross – Yes
  • Sessions – Yes
  • Smith – No
  • Altamirano-Crosby – Yes
  • Decker – No
  • Frizzell – Yes
  • Hurst – Yes

The ordinance passed, 5 – 3.

Most of the Business Items left on the agenda passed with unanimous consent, including the 2022 Bond Issuance Ordinance, the Mid-Biennium Modifications Ordinance, and the Ordinance to adopt Juneteenth as a holiday.

Mayor Smith and Councilwoman Ross say goodbye

As this week’s City Council meeting was Nicola Smith’s last meeting as mayor and Ruth Ross’s as a council member, they each gave a farewell statement. 

Ross, who has been with the city for 16 years, simply said, “While there’s a lot that could be said, I am a woman of few words. So I’ll leave it at this. It’s been an honor and privilege to serve you.”

Nicola Smith reflected on her time as mayor and expressed her gratitude for those who have worked with her. “I’ve had a wonderful journey walking by your side,” she said. “There’s so many of you that have walked this journey for the love of Lynnwood. And we’ve been COVID resilient. The staff has kept services going for our community. The water has been on the toilets have been flushed. We’ve maintained healthy habits that will continue into the future.” 

“We’ve had such a caring council who have been connected with our community in so many different ways and areas. It’s just been a true honor for me the last eight years.” 

“Thank you, everyone, for your support, and I really wish you all the best, and I hope that you will continue to work together—council and staff—and do the right things and make the right decisions for the right reasons to keep Lynnwood rolling in a really positive direction. I wish you all the best. And as Mayor Frizzell takes over, know that you have my support in anything that you need, as well as council,” she concluded.

To view the Dec 13 Business Meeting in its entirety, click here.

Bo John Brusco

Bo John Brusco earned a BA in English Education in 2018 and a MA in New Media Journalism in 2021. In addition to writing for the Times, he periodically contributes to considerthis.one. Brusco values local news stories and believes they play an integral role in maintaining a healthy community.

Bo John Brusco has 161 posts and counting. See all posts by Bo John Brusco

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