Richland council gives city manager raise, bonus

The Richland City Council wrapped up several loose ends Tuesday in its last meeting of the year -- including the unanimous approval of a 2 percent raise and $7,500 bonus for City Manager Cindy Johnson.

Johnson's contract allows for a bonus of up to $10,000 per year, and this is the first year since she was promoted to the job in 2007 that she has not been awarded the full bonus.

But council members were clear that Johnson's performance isn't being questioned. They heaped glowing praise on her, noting the city has not faced the same struggles as other jurisdictions because of Johnson's leadership.

"I think she's done a great job," Councilman Phil Lemley said. "Richland is getting the (reputation) 'How do they do it in Richland?' That alone speaks volumes."

Mayor John Fox said the way city government operates has become noticeably smoother and more efficient during Johnson's tenure, and that there's more teamwork among staff members.

"I think it's evident the culture of operations within the city has changed over these few years for the positive," he said.

Fox noted the raise is relatively small only because of the uncertainties facing the local, state and national economies.

In previous years, the council has voted to give Johnson a 3.5 percent raise, but she asked them to reduce that to 2 percent in 2010.

The raise would bring Johnson from her 2011 salary of about $146,700 to about $149,600.

Also Tuesday, the council:

-- Adopted the $248.4 million 2012 budget, which is 1.6 percent less than 2011's $252 million budget.

The $53.8 million general fund budget represents a 2.7 percent reduction from last year, and leaves $5.7 million in total reserves.

The budget does not include an increase in property taxes.

-- Unanimously agreed to expand the city's voluntary curbside recycling program to businesses. Businesses that opt in will pay commercial rates of $5.70 for a 96 gallon container or $13.90 for a 300 gallon container for pick-up every other week.

-- Appointed Rob McKinney of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, David Forsyth of Mercer Estates and Robert Tippett of Tippett Co. to the board for the Wine Science Center Public Development Authority.

-- Heard a presentation from Richland High School students suggesting safety improvements near the high school to prevent accidents such as the one that killed Sierra Murray in late October.

Suggestions included restricting on-street parking near the school, adding a lighted crosswalk and activity lights that would flash to alert drivers during afterschool activities.

Fox said the city's Public Works staff is talking to the Richland School District about possible improvements and that the students' suggestions would be considered.

-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; mdupler@tricityherald.com