Fire chief to receive cost-of-living salary increase

Fire Chief Hank Lipe will receive five more days of executive leave and could make  up to $129,000 in 2012 after a cost-of-living increase is added to his salary.

Vashon’s fire board unanimously voted last Tuesday to give Lipe a week more of executive leave in 2012 in addition to a cost-of-living raise that all administrative staff at Vashon Island Fire & Rescue — eight people including the chief and assistant chief — receive per district policy. The policy has been in effect since 2000.

Though the cost-of-living increase won’t be determined until January, when year-end Consumer Price Index numbers are released, local numbers have fluctuated between 3.9 and 4.1 percent in recent months.

This year Lipe made $124,600. With a cost-of-living salary increase of 4 percent, he would make about $129,000 in 2012.

Board chair Rex Stratton said that although Lipe’s annual review was good this year, the board decided that an additional pay raise wasn’t warranted. He said raises the chief has received in recent years have put his salary in line with that of chiefs at similar districts.

“In light of the past raises, everyone thought that was fair,” Stratton said.

Lipe received a slight pay raise in 2011 in addition to a smaller cost-of-living increase for a total salary increase of 3.8 percent.

In 2009 Lipe received a substantial 11 percent raise, from $105,000 — his starting salary at VIFR — to $115,500, something board members said reflected his work to turn the department around during his first year on the job.

Ron Turner, another board member, said that in looking over evaluations that a variety of staffers wrote as part of Lipe’s third-party review, it stood out that a few employees said the chief should take more time off.

“That seems like the most cost-effective way to give him a little something,” Turner said.

Lipe now has 15 days of vacation time, which can accrue over time, and 15 days of executive leave, which can be cashed in if unused at the end of the year.

Lipe said he was pleased with the board’s decision.

“I appreciate them studying it and coming to a responsible conclusion,” he said. “I don’t want to be overpaid or underpaid. I want to be with my peers.”

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