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S.L. COMMISSIONERS DECIDE TO BOOST STAFF

Salt Lake County commissioners, still trying to restructure their administrative roles, have decided to beef up their office staff to better handle special projects and provide budget information.

Commissioners have already hired their own public relations aide and plan to hire a finance officer and a productivity analyst.Additionally, commissioners will bring the county's legislative lobbying and tax administration operations under their supervision.

Together, the proposed moves could place about 15 additional full-time positions under commission direction, although perhaps only one new job may actually be created by the personnel shuffle.

Because commissioners haven't decided exactly how the reorganized staff would be structured, the budget impact isn't clear.

But because most of the positions - including those to be filled with newly hired staffers - would be transferred from other county departments, the additional cost is likely to be minimal.

The plan is the three commissioners' latest attempt to reduce their involvement in daily administrative tasks, leaving more time for policymaking and dealing with other levels of government.

A proposal to create a county Chief Administrative Officer post to run daily operations was scrapped earlier this year because of opposition from other county elected officials, who feared a CAO might erode their powers.

Following the demise of the CAO plan, commissioners set up a cabinet - comprising the county's three department directors, the three commission administrative assistants and representatives of some other elected officials' offices - to serve in an advisory role to commissioners.

Following commissioners' direction, the cabinet developed the commission staff proposal.

Transferring the tax administration section into the commission office from the Administrative Services department is intended to help commissioners become more involved in tax policy.

The same goes for the intergovernmental relations section, which would provide more direct commission involvement with legislative lobbying.

Commissioners appropriated $200,000 in this year's budget to set up a productivity team to review the efficiency of county operations and organization.

A public information director was hired for the commission about a month ago, and given instruction to place more "good news" stories about county government on local television news and in newspapers.

The finance officer position was developed because commissioners felt the need for more support in building county budgets. Now commissioners must rely on the county auditor's office, or on the three departments, for budget information.

Because those offices have their own priorities, commission requests either pulled employees away from other tasks or went unanswered until employees could be spared to address them. A commission finance officer could provide commissioners budget information quickly and efficiently, commissioners reason.