Gee & Ursula: Should Tacoma Utilities Director be making over 400K?

Tacoma City Manager Elizabeth Pauli will make more than $309,000 in 2023, according to a report by the Tacoma News Tribune, her second raise in less than a year at an increase of 7.5%.

Tacoma’s Public Utilities Director Jackie Flowers is receiving a 5.6% raise — earning more than $400,000 for the year.

“Yeah, it’s a pretty impressive pay rate. It’s much higher than comparable,” said Mike Lewis, guest host of The Gee and Ursula Show. “Seattle’s Public Utilities Director, Andrew Lee, in April of this year, unless he received a massive pay bump, was reportedly making $265,000 a year. That’s significantly less than the same job in a much, much smaller city of Tacoma. I’m a little perplexed at the necessity for salaries this high.”

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Pauli is the first woman to serve as city manager of Tacoma.

The average city manager in Washington state makes approximately $130,000 to $140,000 a year.

“I’m not saying it’s not a hard job. I just don’t want to see that much of a [salary] gap,” said Gee Scott, host of The Gee and Ursula Show. “$498,000? And then the next person working in that office, let’s say they’re making $75,000? Oh, I don’t want to see that.”

According to Tacoma’s compensation plan, the city manager can make up to $376,501 under the current plan.

This announcement follows news from Texas last summer when Austin city council members approved a whopping 40% salary increase during the peak of inflation amongst the city’s population.

The approved Austin ordinance increased the salary for council members to $116,688 and the salary for the mayor to $134,191.56 for 2023 — a number comparable to Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell’s salary.

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“I’m not sure that is a job that should be paying $300,000 a year. If you just look at the cohorts, if you look at the averages across it, it seems to be a little bit on the outrageous,” Lewis responded. “I’m not making a judgment about any particular person doing this job, it just seems like a high on the salary.”

Last year, the Edmonds City Council agreed to disband the Edmonds Citizens Salary Commission, which set compensation limits for both council members and the mayor. It was disbanded in order to address equity issues when it came to council members’ pay.

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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