January 10 editorial
January 10, 2009
During the recent campaign season, candidates for the Summit County Council talked a lot about the merits of public service and giving back to the community. Now, the five who were elected are being asked to put a price tag on that commitment and it is not easy.
Previously, each of the three county commissioners earned $64,000 plus benefits per year and beyond the day-long weekly meetings, the amount of time they spent on county business was up to the individual commissioner.
The job was deemed part time, even though, in most people’s eyes, $64,000 would be considered a decent full- time salary. We’ll leave it to local citizens to judge whether or not each commissioner earned his or her keep.
But with the shift to the new form of government, the elected officials’ responsibilities have changed substantially. The burden of leading the county is now divided five ways instead of three and later this year the councilors will have additional support from a county manager.
Those who drafted the legislation creating a council form of government declined to set the salaries for their successors. Nevertheless, the outgoing commission did set aside enough money to keep the budget at the same level, figuring the council members could divide it five ways instead of three.
But some citizens who attended the council’s first meeting on Wednesday said they believe $36,000 per year is too much.
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We do too. Park City Council members receive $11,000 plus benefits for arguably the same job.
It is unfortunate this issue was not settled before the councilors ran for office. When applying for a job, it is nice to know how much it pays. But just because they have the power to set their own compensation doesn’t mean they should.
One citizen at the meeting earlier this week suggested that the council set up an independent committee to recommend how much councilors should be paid. That is an excellent idea. And as long as this committee is being assembled, we suggest it research exactly how much time all of the county’s elected officials spend on the job and whether the county can sustain the salaries that have been paid previously in light of the economic downturn.
Oh, and one more thing: If outgoing commissioner Ken Woolstenhulme insists on being paid $128,000 for the balance of his unserved term, whose budget will that come out of?