Utah County commissioners approved a proposal to raise their salaries by about $11,000 along with raises for other elected officials.
The salary proposal was approved during a commission meeting on March 29 by a 2-1 vote. Commissioners Amelia Powers Gardner and Brandon Gordon voted for the increase and Tom Sakievich voted against.
The commissioners received a salary between $117,000 and $119,000 in 2021, and that increased to $128,067 for 2022. The proposal that was passed will raise their salaries to $139,421.
The Utah County attorney's salary will be raised from $147,278 to $160,334, and the Utah County sheriff's salary will increase from $134,471 to $146,392. The salaries of the county assessor, clerk, treasurer, auditor, recorder and surveyor will be increased from $121,664 to $132,450.
In total, the raises will cost the county $123,755 in 2023 to cover the increases for the elected officials.
County human resources director Ralf Barnes said during a commission meeting the raises are meant to bring elected officials' and employees' pay to market level.
"Our elected officials are currently 20% below market," Barnes said. The proposal would raise elected officials' salaries about 9%. "With this increase we are still 10% under the market, so it's a very conservative approach to increasing elected official pay."
Sakievich said during the meeting he would have preferred to wait until a mid-year review to discuss the proposal, so they could see what position the county would be in financially.
"We are elected, we didn't come here for the pay. We came here to serve," Sakievich said. "What I'm concerned about is the timing, of course, and the economics of the community and the nation are not the best."
Powers Gardner said the county can handle the raise financially because it was already anticipated in the 2023 budget.
"We did put in our budget this year to reevaluate every employee in the county, which is why this is being considered," she said during the discussion about the proposal.
The 2023 budget states the human resources department would evaluate salaries in relation to the market to determine if the salaries are competitive for 2023, and the budget includes appropriations for any "potential salary adjustments." Those salary changes would be available if the county commissioners approve the market adjustments, the budget states.
The county's 2023 budget also states: "Due to market conditions, salary and related benefit costs were increased significantly in 2022 to be in line with similar positions at comparable agencies."
This increase is evident in the 2023 budget, where it shows the administrative services funds for salaries increased from $621,410 in 2021 to $933,150 in 2022. The funds for 2023 were even higher, at $976,740.
The elected officials' salary raises went into effect on April 12, when the commission approved by consent a phased increase in Utah County employee wages. The first phase of wage increases includes sworn positions in the county attorney's office and the sheriff's office.
The rest of Utah County employees will have their wages raised in phases during 2023 as per a compensation study conducted by the human resources department.
Gordon said this topic is always a difficult one to discuss and vote on because you don't want to overpay or underpay elected officials. "We want to operate Utah County as a professional organization and you want to make sure your people are being paid properly," he said.
Gordon said he is appreciative of the effort the human resources department put into researching a reasonable pay increase in comparison to other counties with similar sizes and economies.
Counties with a similar size and economy to Utah County that also are run by three-person commissions include Davis, Weber and Washington.
The commissioners of Davis County earned about $135,700 in 2022; the Weber County commissioners earned about $146,900; and Washington County commissioners received around $112,000. The Cache County executive — a similar role to a commissioner — earned $127,900 in 2022.
Based on these numbers, Utah County commissioners will still be below Weber County, but will be paid more than Davis and Washington commissioners.
"With the employees we're actually bringing them up to market level. We're only bringing the elected officials halfway between the gap and market level so we actually are raising the pay for elected officials significantly less than we are raising the pay for all of the employees," Powers Gardner said.