CACHE COUNTY – The members of the Cache County Council denied themselves a significant pay raise by a split vote during their final meeting of the year on Tuesday.
With outgoing council member Jon White abstaining, the remaining council members voted down a motion by Gordon A. Zilles that the annual compensation for a council member be raised by $3,000 to $15,925 starting Jan. 1, 2021.
Debate over “adequate compensation” for county council members began during the panel’s previous meeting on Dec. 1, when Zilles proposed a pay hike of $1,500 annually for his fellow council members.
The council members elected to table that motion last week to give themselves time to consider its implications.
Faced Tuesday evening with resolving this final impediment to the adoption of the county’s nearly $70 million budget for 2021, Zilles doubled down by upping the ante on his proposal to a $3,000 pay hike.
The county’s tentative 2021 budget originally proposed that council members receive a 3 percent pay increase along with all other county employees. That would have raised their annual compensation to $12,925, an increase of $376 from the council members’ current compensation $12,549.
But Zilles disputed the adequacy of that compensation, given the complexity of council members’ assignments and the demands on their time.
During Tuesday’s meeting, council member Paul R. Borup agreed that few local residents probably realize that serving on the county council involves a commitment of “about 20 hours per week” to attend various committee and board meetings.
While echoing that sentiment, council member Gina Worthen said that a recommendation regarding adequate compensation should come from an impartial panel rather than council members themselves.
“There’s three reasons why someone would want to be on the county council,” White said bluntly. “Either they have an axe to grind, they’re after money or they’re civic-minded.
“I hope that we never raise the pay enough that someone wants to be on the council for the money… This isn’t an occupation, it’s a chance to provide service. We should never forget that.”
While acknowledging that increased compensation might encourage more residents to considering running for the county council, council member David L. Erickson also argued that a sense of civic duty should still be their driving motivation.
After Zilles’ motion was rejected by a three-three vote, Worthen successfully moved that the council approve the $12,925 compensation level for 2021 and refer the question of adequate compensation for council members to the County Compensation Committee for an objective recommendation for future years.
Adoption of County Ordinance 2020-16 also approved an annual compensation amount of $14,725 for County Council Chair Karl B. Ward.