The committee that has been studying Tooele County’s government for a year believes it can give the county a new government with five council members and a county manager for less than its costs taxpayers for the current three-member county commission.
The Tooele County Government Study Committee held town hall meetings in Tooele City on Tuesday night and simultaneous meetings in Stansbury and Grantsville on Wednesday night.
Each meeting drew a dozen or less people.
At each meeting, committee members reviewed their study process, recommendation, and implementation plan to replace Tooele County’s three-member commission with a part-time five member council that hires a county manager.
The new county council members will be elected for four-year terms by districts, if the committee’s recommendation is ultimately adopted by Tooele County voters.
At approximately $120,000 in salary and benefits for each of the three county commissioners, taxpayers in Tooele County pay $360,000 a year for the top layer of county government, according to Richard Mitchell, committee chairman.
The committee’s proposal includes paying five part-time elected council members a $25,000 annual stipend, with no benefits. The county manager would be paid $90,000 to $120,000 per year with benefits. The cost of the whole package, council and manager, would run around $300,000 per year, Mitchell said.
“The five council members will cost about as much as one commissioner,” Mitchell said.
The $25,000 pay for council members would put Tooele County in the 80th percentile statewide for council pay, according to Mitchell.
Mitchell’s PowerPoint presentation included a slide that showed data on council pay for all city and county councils in Utah. It showed that out of 677 council members in Utah, 564 are paid less than $25,000 per year.
Mitchell also produced an organization chart that showed out of 322 county employees, the current county commission oversees 75 employees.
“The remainder of the county employees are supervised by other elected officials that are directly responsible to the public or in departments where the department head is appointed by the state,” Mitchell said.
The committee’s proposal would put the 75 employees under the administrative, or executive direction, of the county manager.
The county council would retain the legislative duties of approving an annual budget and setting policy, or county code, according to Mitchell.
If voters approve the new form of government during the 2018 election, the study committee has proposed an implementation timetable that will have the county council in place on Jan. 1, 2021 and the county manager hired by April 2021.
The implementation plan calls for the two county commissioners that will be elected in 2018 to transition to part-time council members in Jan. 2021 for the remaining two years of their terms.
The third county commissioner’s term will expire at the end of 2020. In November 2020, elections would be held for three county council members whose terms will begin Jan, 1, 2021.
The study committee recommends that the current county commission appoint a selection committee that will accept applications, conduct prescreening, and rank order applicants for the county manager position.
The study committee’s recommendation will include qualifications and duties of the county manager.
When the new council is seated on Jan. 1, 2021, the council will take over the hiring process and interview and hire the county manager, using the applications screened by the selection committee.
The study committee has made its recommendation for the five-member council and hired manager form of government, that will not and cannot be changed according to state code, Mitchell said.
“We can consider and possibly incorporate public comment in the fine-tuning and implementation of the plan,” Mitchell said.
The committee has until Feb. 9 to produce its final report, according to Mitchell.
After that, the county attorney has 30-days to review the plan and make sure it meets constitutional and statutory requirements. The committee will have a chance to correct any legal defects that the attorney finds, Mitchell said.
The committee will present its plan to the County Commission, which may decide to place the committee’s recommendation on the ballot for the 2018 election.
If the commission decides not to put the recommendation on the ballot, signatures may be collected on a petition to place the recommendation on the ballot.
The study committee has two public presentations scheduled for tonight: At the Stockton Town Council meeting at 7 p.m. at Stockton Town Hall, and one at Vernon Fire Department at 7 p.m. Another presentation will be made during the regular Rush Valley Town Council meeting on Jan. 24.