Though an uncomfortable prospect, according to council members, Cache County Council approved the 2021 budget proposal complete with a raise for themselves out of the general fund on Tuesday.
“Last time there was an increase, it was $49, and it was in December of 2015,” said Council Member Gina Worthen. “I think that a 3% cost of living increase is not unreasonable to the taxpayers. It’s something that we’ve been giving the employees, it’s something we’ve been giving the other officials.”
Worthen and Council Member Paul Borup also noted that the salary for council members — $12,500, until the increase was passed, bringing it to $12,925 for 2021 — is about half of the next lowest-paying County Council.
Part-time council members in Morgan County — a fourth-class county with a population of 12,045, Worthen noted — take home about $24,000 a year. In Wasatch — a third-class county, population of 33,240 — the salary is about $29,000.
And for tourist attraction Grand County — with only 9,764 permanent residents — the county council voted to give elected officials a raise without raising the council’s salary from about $11,000. Then in 2019, the council’s salary almost tripled to just under $31,000 after council members voted to increase.
Borup said he struggled with the idea of a self-imposed raise on Dec. 1 but added “if I wasn’t sitting here, or it wasn’t going to benefit me, I would think you would easily vote for more for that position.”
He said a higher compensation for the 15-20 weekly hours of commitment necessary to serve on the council would be beneficial for more equitable representation.
“You have certain people that are civic minded, that are going to run, but that’s a very limited number of folks, especially if you’re out there earning money for your family, and you’re in your prime earning years, you only have a limited amount of time,” Borup said on Tuesday.
“There are people that you would love to have serve on the County Council who just look at it, and do the cost-benefit go, ‘I’m not gonna do it.’’’
Council Member Gordon Zilles announced he will not be running for re-election when his term ends in 2022, as he has been a council member for 16 years. At the Dec. 1 meeting, he said “no one is here to get rich,” but suggested the 3% increase, roughly $400 dollars, was still too low on its own, and proposed an additional $1,500 pay bump instead.
On Tuesday, he made a motion to double that proposal and raise the salary by the cost-of-living increase plus $3,000, for a total annual compensation of $15,925.
The motion failed due to a tie as outgoing-Council Member Jon White abstained. Council Members Dave Erickson, Worthen and Borup voted nay while the council’s chair, Karl Ward, and members Zilles and Barbara Tidwell voted in favor.
Instead, Worthen proposed accepting the recommended 3% cost-of-living wage (and $14,725 for the council chair) and for the compensation committee to “look at this issue and give us a recommendation” for a future raise.
The motion passed with Borup as the only “nay” and the quip, “I figured I’d stay on that train.”