The Port of Tacoma Commission raised salaries for future commissioners Thursday to $1,800 a month, more than triple the $500 monthly commission members now receive.
The salary increase is the first in 21 years for commission members. The higher salary won’t apply to present commission members unless they successfully run for re-election this fall. Three of the commission’s five members, Connie Bacon, Dick Marzano and Don Meyer, are running for re-election.
The new salary would apply to them or their successors beginning in January when their new terms begin. Two other commission members, Clare Petrich and Don Johnson, whose terms don’t expire this year, will continue receiving the $500 monthly amount until they successfully run for their seats again.
Although all commission members favored the increase, they were publicly uncomfortable voting for such a large raise.
Commission President Don Meyer, said future raises should be recommended by an outside body. The state Office of Financial Management henceforth will approve cost-of-living raises once every five years based on changes to the Consumer Price Index.
The next adjustment scheduled by the OFM will be in July when port officials expect to see them raise both port commission salaries and port per diem rates by five to six percent.
Several port commissioners said they spent considerable time trying to decide what salary level was appropriate.
Meyer said he initially thought that $1,500 a month would be an appropriate amount, but he upped his figure after he found out what other ports’ commissioners were being paid in much smaller ports. Tacoma commissioner Marzano had originally proposed the $1,800 figure.
Port commission members in Shelton, for instance, are paid $1,250 monthly. That port’s annual operating revenues are $1.5 million compared with Tacoma’s $124 million.
Commission Johnson said he didn’t want the salary to jump so high that candidates who don’t have business expertise would be attracted to the position only because of the salary.
In addition to their salaries, port commissioners are paid $104 in per diem payments for each meeting they attend that has a port connection. They may receive a maximum of $12,535 annually in per diem payments.
With the larger salary approved Thursday, a commissioner receiving the maximum per diem would be paid $34,135 yearly.
In addition to the salary and per diem payments, commission members receive a benefits package of medical, dental and vision coverage and life insurance. That benefits package costs the port about $21,000 per commission member.