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How much would mayoral change measure cost city?

SNOHOMISH — If a petition to change the city’s form of government succeeds, what will it cost the city?
County elections manager Garth Fell said last week he has received a lot of communication on the potential costs. 
Fell said the estimated cost for this issue, based on the size of Snohomish and past voter history, could be around $5,000 from the city coffers. If a primary is needed to narrow a field of mayoral candidates, it would cost the city around an additional $7,500, Fell said.
The tallied cost is a far cry from the up to $50,000 city officials gave as the top-end estimate. The city’s figure came from an internal analysis.
Fell said $50,000 could be considered “the worst case scenario.”
“Cost estimates are based on past history and the size of the city of Snohomish, and what other districts are on the ballot,” Fell said.
“Depending on which election the issue is before voters, it’ll depend on what the cost is. We won’t know until it actually happens,” he said.
The petition began circulating last month. It wants to create a ballot initiative to reshape city hall from a “weak mayor” government to a “strong mayor” government that could possibly cancel out the need for a city manager.
So far, the petition has at least 75 signatures, effort co-organizer Bill Betten said earlier this week.
Co-organizer John Kartak, who is tallying the petition signatures, would not reveal the exact number when asked Monday, Feb. 1, but said they are “way beyond where we need to be at this rate.”
The petition needs 218 verified registered voters to have the issue be considered for a ballot.
Organizers are angling to get it on this November’s ballot. The deadline to get a measure on the November ballot is Aug. 2.
Depending if voters choose to change the city form of government, an additional mayoral election in February or April 2017 would follow. 
“Then, if they were to elect positions next year at a normal time, a primary for general election, the cost is interesting,” Fell said. “It assumes that more than two people will file (for the strong mayor position) with the district, so the primary election for the city will be about $7,500.”
The city would be responsible for election costs, and since there isn’t a contingency fund for that expense, ultimately it would cost voters, the city said. 
Snohomish switched to a “weak mayor” format in 1972.
It is unclear if the effort would ask for a full-time mayor holding all the reigns, and it is anybody’s guess if that presumed mayor would hire a city administrator.
The salaries for a city administrator and a city manager are roughly the same. The positions tend to exceed $120,000 in pay and neither position is elected. 
A city administrator answers directly to the mayor as the city’s top staff member. A city manager answers directly to the City Council and works as the head of City Hall.
Monroe and Lake Stevens, for example, are strong mayor cities that utilize a city administrator. Monroe pays its administrator $125,000, almost at the top of the position’s salary range within the city.
Larry Bauman, Snohomish’s city manager, earns more
than $140,000. Mill Creek pays its city administrator a salary of more than $150,000.
The City Council is involved in hiring and firing both positions and also is usually involved in approving any pay increases under both
mayoral formats.

 

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