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Utah County officials underpaid?

Commissioner thinks they are, wants to increase pay for elected positions

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PROVO — Wouldn't you just love to be able to give yourself a raise? Government officials actually can. And the Utah County Commission just might do that.

The commission this week discussed salary increases for elected county officials.

An independent market research company prepared economic comparisons with other government entities for the commission to review.

Although it's the second largest county in Utah, elected officials are paid significantly less than other counties nearly the same size, according to the study.

"We're pretty low," said Commissioner Gary Anderson after seeing the chart of comparisons. "We work cheap around here, don't we?"

Part of the change in salary would be to place elected officials on the same schedule as the rest of the county employees, said Bryan Thompson, Utah County clerk/auditor.

A portion of employee paychecks was put directly into a retirement fund, but earlier this year, the county changed the policy so employees were able to choose whether to take home a larger check or redirect a certain amount to their retirement fund.

Commissioners will be able to create the same option for elected officials, Thompson said.

Commissioner Steve White said he wanted the elected officials to be on the same calendar as the other county employees.

Commissioners earn $94,692 and, depending on the comparison the commission decides to use, their salaries could range from $100,000 to $114,000.

Other elected officials who would be involved in the pay increase are the county attorney, sheriff, clerk/auditor, assessor, treasurer and recorder. However, the commissioners are cautious to give themselves and other elected officials that large of a pay raise.

Anderson said there's no way politically that commission members would raise their salaries substantially. He mentioned that some elected officials in other counties make upwards of $120,000. He said he thought the elected officials in the county were underpaid.

"I'm willing to give everyone a raise, but not that (much)," he said.

He also said that with the Provo School District thinking about raising taxes he couldn't "in good conscience" put an extra burden on taxpayers in order to increase pay levels.

If the school-district increase is OK'd, owners of a $250,000 home will pay an extra $168 in property taxes.

The commission continued the item until next Tuesday in order to discuss the different comparisons and raises.

No members of the public spoke during the public hearing.

Commissioners will decide the amount of the increases for elected officials Tuesday at 9 a.m. in the commission chambers.

E-mail: csmith@desnews.com