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Assembly debates compensation at length

Body will vote on increasing monthly allowance at next meeting

Posted: April 2, 2014 - 10:25pm

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly discussed changes to its budget and considered changes to members’ compensation at its Tuesday meeting.

While an ordinance sponsored by assembly member Brent Johnson and a substitute sponsored by assembly member Bill Smith were both up for public hearings, an enacting vote was postponed to allow for additional public comment.

Johnson’s ordinance aimed to cut back assembly compensation to save an estimated $97,100 annually. The ordinance proposed to cut health and life insurance and Internet and vehicle allowance. To compensate for some of those cuts, the ordinance proposed a higher monthly allowance for members.

“I know this is hard to talk about, but so what, a lot of things are hard to talk about,” Johnson said. “I certainly have sympathy for people who need this money. It’s always hard when you’re wanting to cut a budget.”

Since 2000, assembly members have had the option to receive compensation for:

■ A monthly allowance of $400 for members and $500 for the president;

■ Mileage based on the current Internal Revenue Service rate;

■ A vehicle allowance of $150 or $250 for members representing the south and east peninsula and Homer;

■ Internet allowance at $25 per month;

■ Portable computer devices and;

■ Health and life insurance at the same level as borough department heads.

Members may choose to not receive any of the allowances and benefits.

“I argue that it seems a bit generous to me getting both paid 56 cents a mile to drive my car and then to get a car allowance as well,” Johnson said.

He said people own cars and have Internet access before being elected to the assembly, so the public doesn’t need to pay for those items.

Health insurance costs about $18,600 annually per assembly member. Johnson said because assembly members aren’t full-time employees, they shouldn’t receive full-time healthcare. Since not all members receive health insurance through the borough, Johnson said the estimated $97,100 in savings would not be fully realized if the ordinance is enacted.

The ordinance proposed to increase monthly stipends for members to $875 and $1,000 for the president. He said if the members are going to give up health insurance, they should receive a higher monthly allowance.

Assembly members Wayne Ogle and Charlie Pierce agreed with most of Johnson’s points.

“I think it’s time to shift,” Pierce said. “I think the compensation package should be a flat fee, whatever it is.”

Assembly member Mako Haggerty said he thinks the compensation is fair.

“It’s nice to know that somebody respects my time and is compensating me for it,” he said.

He said offering compensations opens the assembly for a more diverse body.

Because member compensation has not accounted for inflation during the past 14 years, Smith proposed a substitute ordinance that would not make any cuts to compensation and would increase monthly allowances by 40 percent — the amount of purchasing power the monthly stipends have lost. The substitute also called for the allowances to be revised annually by the percentage change in the Anchorage Consumer Price Index. It would take effect on Oct. 15, 2016, so if enacted, changes wouldn’t affect seated members.

Smith agreed with Haggerty’s view that the compensation might entice others to run for their district’s seat.

“Maybe some younger folks from a different slice of the community would feel that they had adequate compensation for the time that they would have to spend here,” Smith said.

Ogle said he had a problem with following the changes in the price index because it will put the budget on “autopilot.” He wants the public to be able to look at the code and easily see what members’ compensation is.

“We have a federal government that does nothing but index everything,” he said. “There’s a baseline in which the federal budget is attached to and it is totally out of control. I don’t mean to over dramatize that, but that’s the kind of approach I think we’d want to avoid as far as compensation for us.”

Ogle moved to amend Johnson’s ordinance to change the monthly allowance to account for inflation according to the numbers in the substitute — $560 for members and $700 for the president. He didn’t include the automatic annual revision according to the index as a part of the amendment.

The amendment failed with Ogle casting the only vote in favor.

Smith moved to amend Johnson’s ordinance with the substitute.

Before the vote on the replacement, assembly member Dale Bagley moved to amend Smith’s substitute ordinance to remove the yearly change to the monthly stipend according to the index.

The assembly unanimously passed the amendment to the substitute.

The assembly then voted to amend the Johnson ordinance with the Smith amended substitute. Johnson, Ogle and Pierce cast votes against the change.

Smith moved to postpone the enacting vote on the ordinance as amended with the modified substitute.

If the ordinance is approved as amended at the next assembly meeting at 6 p.m. on April 15 at Seward City Hall in Seward, members’ monthly stipends would be increase by 40 percent according to inflation rates from $400 to $560 and the president’s allowance would increase from $500 to $700. All other benefits would remain the same.

Kaylee Osowski can be reached at

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Suss 04/03/14 - 06:50 am
Cute trick for getting a raise

Instead of lowering the costs to the Borough the introduced request to cut benefits will actually end up increasing the salary and benefits for the assembly members. Fake a cut, and grab a raise. Well played, only your playing with the voters.

Next time they want a raise just put it out there without the subterfuge.

DaleBagley 04/04/14 - 08:12 am

You can disagree with what the Assembly does but at least get your facts straight. First of all I don't know that Assembly member Smith's ordinance has the votes to pass at the next meeting, but it only raises the salary and not benefits. It also does not take effect until October 15, 2016, when all the current Assembly members will either be off the Assembly or have run for reelection.

Suss 04/04/14 - 01:44 pm
Facts Again

If the salaries are increased then benefits increase. Retirement payments will increase which is a benefit to the retiree. Another cute trick trying to split a hair by denying that there would be a cost increase associated with benefits. If you deny this then you should forgo your pension and all "benefits" that you do not seem to acknowledge. The other suggested raises are also benefiting the assembly members.

Shame on you and your faulty understanding of your position of trust with the tax paying public.

DaleBagley 04/04/14 - 07:13 pm

New Assembly members do not get retirement benefits and have not for quite awhile, of the ones that do, show me one that is planning on making $350/month their three high years and then retire on 30% to 40% of $350(depending upon how many years they served).

Suss 04/05/14 - 11:49 am

Show me the Assembly members that do not have prior service and will not receive Alaskacare health benefits and retirement. There is more to the retirement plan than the top three years earnings. (Time in seat?) 2% of annual income per year for the first 10 years, 2.5% per year for 10 or more. So the longer in, the greater the retirement. Previous high income years still count.

Employees who were previously in the PERS system will fall under the previous rules.

Please allow for the public to comment by directly asking for pay and benefit raises and or changes by having the discussion in Soldotna, rather than taking the matter up on a scheduled road trip to the Seward meeting.

Sometimes it is not what you are attempting to do, but how you go about what you are doing that causes the concern. Put out a resolution seeking comments from the public on all the proposed changes to salaries and benefits, with ample notice for citizen input.

Personally I could see a flat fee per meeting of $400.00 and do away with the add ons. Whatever happens, it is bad form to turn a request to reduce costs into an increase in costs, as in the way this was brought forward.

If your claim that no new assembly members recieve any retirement or health benefits from PERS is accurate then these savings are up to $2,000,000 per member and $2,000,000 per spouse, plus eligible dependents, just for health care. The health care costs are why the State is in serious underfunding trouble.

leewaytooo 04/05/14 - 05:23 am
full time health care for a

full time health care for a part time job????

the health care costs of 18,600 per assembly member

is ludicrous........... you can not truly call it "public

service" and expect the public to pay full time health

care benefits..... they all have other jobs.....

if they want to be truly altruistic public service citizens

then drop the health care provisions and pay for their own

they wont, because 18,600 dollars is the main "BENEFIT"

of the position....and it is tax free.....kinda like ceo's taking

pay in stock where their gains are taxed at a lower rate than

the average person....

and the wheel never stops......just changes directions....

Raoulduke 04/05/14 - 07:11 am
Same song,Different beat

Go get em Suss. I guess. The Alaskan sits idly by as the politician's in Juneau continues to gouge the coffers of the Alaskan.Why should the mentality of the small town politicians.Think any differently? After all you receive so much in return. If it is O.K. in Juneau.It must be O.K. for them also. This is a classic example of politician's looking out for ones own self.

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