Summit County clarifies salary figures
The Summit County Council discussed salaries in comparison to other Utah counties of similar size during last Wednesday’s work session and Truth in Taxation hearing.
During a Dec. 12 budget hearing, Wanship resident and political watchdog Jacqueline Smith accused the county of overpaying its employees. She circulated handouts detailing what she sees as the gross overpay as compared to other agencies.
"There was a handout at your last budget meeting about the county’s salary averages, and there’s been some commentary about that on the radio," Summit County Manager Bob Jasper told the County Council members and staffers during the work session. "So I asked [Summit County Human Resource Director] Brian Bellamy to go back to the raw sources, such as our salaries and our pay scales versus the Bureau of Labor’s nationwide averages."
Bellamy explained that the county does a salary survey every year, which includes first-, second- and third-class counties in Utah, as well as communities such as Park City, Salt Lake City and Murray.
Bellamy added that following last week’s meeting, he compared Smith’s numbers with the county numbers.
"I’ve gone in there and taken the job titles given, but if you look, you’ll see there are 13 of 23 titles where there is no match from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for what they are calling out," he said. "When we couldn’t find the title, we reviewed all the data to find the numbers they are using. So we’ve had to extrapolate some of the information to try to guess where they are getting their information."
For example, the handout Smith distributed listed the county appraiser making $74,000 in salary and benefits, compared to the bureau’s national average of $54,460. In reviewing the numbers, Bellamy determined the job title used by Smith was actually ‘appraisers and assessors of real estate.’
According to the county’s numbers, the average salary of a Summit County appraiser is $38,994. Comparable Utah counties pay $42,925, according to the county’s annual survey.
"Some of these positions aren’t even listed on the Bureau of Labor Statistics, so they are extrapolating," he said. "County manager is not even listed in the documents, but we did find the number they used, and that is ‘finance director,’ which they threw in there for a county manager."
Bellamy pointed to the line item of ‘receptionist’ on Smith’s handout and said that the county does not employ a receptionist.
"We have a number of people who answer the telephone and do other things as well. We have secretaries and clerks, and one of their duties is to answer the telephone," he said.
Bellamy added that the county is right in line with similar places.
"We look at our comparables, and that’s how we set our salaries, at who we’ve lost employees to in the past," he said.
Jasper clarified that the county is not paying employees according to the local cost of living, but only to compete with other counties.
"The reality is, this doesn’t match up with the Bureau of Labor, and I appreciate Brian’s attempt to try to figure out where they got the numbers. But with the clean comparison, there were no numbers," he said.
Smith stood up at the Truth in Taxation hearing last Wednesday and again addressed the salary comparisons.
"We’re 30 percent higher than the national average, than what we should be in Summit County," she said. "We are overpaying public employees. I don’t mean that to be mean. I know people work really hard, but we’ve got to be more competitive with the private sector."
Bellamy countered Smith’s argument following the public comment period, providing the example of ‘library director,’ for which the Department of Labor lists an average salary of $57,020. The county pays the library director $75,632, and the industry standard for Utah is $95,723. According to Smith’s handout, she claimed the county pays $101,000 for the position.
"We don’t just look at a title and say, this is this position here. That was part of the flaw with the numbers that were handed out," he said.
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