Editorial: What they’re worth
Last week, among other significant pay raises for county employees, the five members of the Summit County Council considered a 10% salary increase for themselves as a cost-of-living adjustment. The increase was proposed by the county’s budget committee; councilors do not serve on that committee.
Each County Council member currently receives $50,605 per year, except for the council chair, who is paid $56,930.
With the raise, which still must be approved — by the County Council — members would make $55,655.50 a year and the chair would earn $62,623 a year. That’s not bad for part-time work, if they really worked part-time.
They probably don’t. The county councilors’ hours fluctuate depending on the number of meetings and other duties they have, but they are generally working more than part-time hours — that is, more than 20 hours per week —to fulfill their commitments, County Communications Director Derek Siddoway explained. Although, he added, “They don’t clock in.” (On behalf of people everywhere who have to punch a time clock, we don’t see why they should.)
In 2008, the five-person County Council was organized on the assumption the councilors would be part-time representatives. Prior to that, from the time of its organization, in 1854, Summit County had a three-member county commission. In 2008, those three members were making $75,000 per year, which is approximately $99,555 today.
The five new County councilors started at $35,000 a year, or approximately $48,445 a year in today’s money. Annual cost-of-living adjustments got them to today’s $50,605.
In 1970, the Summit County commissioners were earning $4,200 a year, according to Joe Frazier, Summit County’s historian. That would be roughly $32,259 a year today. So at some point between 1970 and 2008, the County commissioners likely went — in their minds, at least — from part-time to full-time representatives.
And before 1970?
“From what I’ve found, they were unpaid” in the middle of the 19th century, Frazier says, but “there was not a whole lot (of information) because there weren’t any newspapers in the county at that time.”
We did, however, find a financial statement for Summit County, published in the Park Record in 1905 for the preceding year, showing salary disbursements for County commissioners, which seems to state they were each paid roughly $400 a year. In today’s money, that would be about $13,394.
We have no way at this distance of knowing how busy those County commissioners were in 1904, sorting out mining claims and the true ownership of horses, or whether someone ought to stop in and see Widow Jones, although there we might be thinking of the Harper Valley PTA; but we are going to assume they were not lazy men (and that they were all men) — and that they, like so many men and women since, may have felt underpaid and under-appreciated.
We hope that next year, with a cost-of-living adjustment — which would also go to all County employees — the County councilors feel a little better about what they give and get.
That same snow is leaving the mule deer that share our valleys on the edge of starvation, a place that they know in their bones — and leading to people feeding them, a controversial practice even by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
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