Council warned not to set its salary too high
January 10, 2009
Watchdogs in Summit County will closely monitor how much the new Summit County Council will pay itself.
Soon after being sworn into office Wednesday in Coalville, councilpersons heard from those concerned the politicians will set their new salaries too high.
The new councilors are Democrats Sally Elliott, Claudia McMullin, John Hanrahan and Chris Robinson, and Republican David Ure.
Guidelines voters approved two years ago that laid out how the form of government would change state that members of the new County Council would earn $1 per year. The form of government in Summit County changed in January from the three-person County Commission to a five-member council/manager model.
The councilpersons could start off earning about $30,000 per year, according to a tentative compensation package the Summit County Commission supported last year.
Including benefits, the total yearly compensation is worth roughly $45,000 each. The compensation County Commission members received in 2008 was worth about $75,000 each.
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"I think you’re entitled to something for your efforts, but I think you’ve gone way overboard," North Summit resident Glen Brown told the County Council Wednesday.
Compensation for elected public officials "has gotten way out of hand," said Brown, a former speaker of the Utah House of Representatives.
"It’s an honor to serve the public," Brown said. "This is not a job."
He cautioned the County Council to set salaries "reflective of the times that we’re living in."
"I trust that you’ll do that," Brown said.
Hoytville resident Mike Crittenden said elected officials and department heads in Summit County are more highly paid than their counterparts in more populated areas of the state.
"These numbers were surprising," Crittenden told the Summit County Council. "What are the citizens of Summit County getting for these dollars that other counties aren’t getting?"
Crittenden was part of a committee that recommended the form of government in Summit County change, which had determined that about $17,000 was an appropriate annual salary for new politicos.
Ultimately, the salary was set at $1 as a "placeholder" so councilpersons could later determine their own pay, said Brian Bellamy, interim Summit County manager.
"Compensation in county government is out of line," Crittenden said. "That’s what the facts state."
A "blue ribbon" commission is needed to make an unbiased salary recommendation for the County Council, he insisted.
"I think we should freeze compensation until Summit County becomes more in line with our peer counties," Crittenden said.
But strictly using population figures from other counties for comparison is "a little bit flawed," said John Hanrahan, chairman of the Summit County Council.
"I just don’t think that cost per capita really makes sense in this instance," Hanrahan said, referring to the higher cost of living in Summit County when compared to other places in the state.
Summit County Councilman Chris Robinson suggested delaying a decision on salaries, which his colleagues supported.
"I think there were some very valid points brought up today," County Councilman David Ure said at Wednesday’s debate.
Meanwhile, Hanrahan was elected chairman and Summit County Councilwoman Claudia McMullin was named vice chairwoman of the new panel Wednesday. Councilors could continue to debate salaries when they meet Wednesday in Coalville.