CACHE COUNTY – The Cache County Council unanimously approved pay hikes for the county’s elected officials with minimal discussion Tuesday, but debate arose over the possibility of more compensation for themselves.
Cache County’s tentative 2021 budget of nearly $70 million dollars proposes annual compensation of $12,925 for members of the county council. That’s an increase of $376 from the council members current compensation $12,549.
All county employees are likely to receive a similar 3 percent pay hike in 2021, according to County Finance Director Cameron Jensen.
But council member Gordon A. Zilles questioned whether $12,925 was adequate compensation for his fellow council members’ time and effort, suggesting that a pay hike of up to $1,500 might be more appropriate.
While stressing that “none of us are here to get rich,” Zilles argued that council members deserve adequate compensation for the time that their many duties require that they spend away from their full-time jobs and other responsibilities.
Zilles added that he felt justified in raising the question about adequate compensation since he’s unlikely to benefit greatly from any decision on the issue that the council members might make. Zilles has already announced his intent to not seek re-election to the county council after competing his current term of office in 2022.
Council member Paul R. Borup agreed that the prospect of council members voting themselves a significant pay raise was an “uncomfortable” one.
Borup said that he would prefer that any substantial pay raise not take effect until after county residents had the opportunity to vote on returning incumbent council members to office.
Council member David L. Erickson said that defining adequate compensation for the members of the local panel was difficult because Cache County isn’t really comparable to other Utah counties.
With about 128,000 residents, Cache is the sixth most populous county in Utah, following Salt Lake (about 1.2 million residents), Utah (more than 636,000), Davis (more than 355,000), Weber (more than 260,000) and Washington (more than 177,000) counties. But all of the state’s remaining 23 counties have half or less of Cache County’s population.
Erickson suggested that Washington County is closest to Cache in terms of population, but the demographics and growth trends of that area of southern Utah are completely different.
Despite having much smaller populations, some Utah counties provide their council members with lavish compensation packages, according to council member Gina Worthen.
The annual compensation for members of the Grand County Council is now $36,000, she said.
The salary of those council members was only $11,651, according to a report in the Moab Sun News, until they voted themselves a 166 percent pay hike in 2019.
Despite its popularity as a major Utah tourism hub, Grand County only has about 10,000 full-time residents.
With about 35,000 residents, Wasatch County compensates its county council members to the tune of $29,000 annually.
Members of the Morgan County Council earn $24,000 annually, according to Worthen. That county has only about 12,000 residents.
After continued discussion, Council Chairman Karl Ward suggested that the issue be tabled until the county council’s next meeting on Dec. 8.
But county finance director Jensen emphasized that the question will have to be resolved in order for the council to approve the tentative 2021 budget prior to the end of the year.