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Clerk Baird responds to salary controversy/i>
Jan 03, 2019 | 287 views | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
While I find some of Mr. Jackson’s comments to the Grand County Council, and on social media, matters of legitimate debate, I have to take issue with his characterization of the budgeting process as, “This is what secrecy from publicly elected officials looks like” in his letter to the editor published Dec. 27.

The Grand County Council established a Budget Advisory Board in 2018. For the most part I chaired this board. This board held 19 open meetings from April to October, and all of them were public meetings. They were advertised, open to the public, and the minutes/recordings were approved and posted a week after each meeting on the Grand County website.

The tentative decision regarding the council’s salary was made in a public joint meeting of the Budget Advisory Board and the Grand County Council on Oct. 4.

I developed a tentative 2019 budget based on the results of 19 public Budget Advisory Board meetings. This tentative budget was presented to the public in four different regularly scheduled Grand County Council meetings spanning the months of November and December. And, the proposed budget, in each of the four meetings, was available to be downloaded on the county website, along with the agenda for each meeting. I also personally emailed the tentative budget to the editors of both local newspapers.

In addition, I advertised for four public hearings concerning the budget and salary increases for double the amount of time required by law. The Grand County Council also held open those public hearings on Dec. 4, and didn’t schedule action until Dec. 18. State law doesn’t require that the council hold public hearings open. The council has a policy to do so in an attempt to enhance transparency and opportunity for public involvement.

During the time that the public hearings were held open, The Times-Independent published an article specifically on the council’s salary increase (just two days after the hearing, and 12 days before the decision was scheduled), and emphasized the story on their Facebook page and in an on-air interview with Molly Marcello of KZMU on Dec. 7.

In total, the process to approve the 2019 Grand County budget comprised 23 public meetings, all open to the public, and fully compliant with the state’s open meeting act. In addition, there were four public hearings, and the county’s budget was and remains available to be downloaded from the county’s website as part of the agendas of the council meetings in November and December.

Despite all this, I aim to please, and if Mr. Jackson, or anyone else would like to be personally notified of the financial happenings of Grand County (without having to attend a meeting, read any minutes, or pay attention to public notices and/or public hearings), I would be happy to oblige. Just email me at cbaird@grandcountyutah.net and I’ll make sure that you know what is going on.

The methodology used to determine the council’s salary was the same as for all Grand County employees. We averaged the salaries of other part-time county legislators to come to the approved figures. The salary survey showed that the Grand County Council members came in dead lowest in pay of all 29 counties in Utah. The salaries approved were based on the averages of the council’s part-time peers across the state.

Some comparisons may help to put the approved salaries into perspective. Besides being now average with part-time legislators across Utah, Grand County Council members’ total cost to the taxpayers (with the salary increase) is approximately 32 percent of the total cost of the average full-time county legislator in Utah. In comparison to other Grand County employees; the increased council members’ total cost is 53 percent of the cost of Grand County’s lowest paid full-time employees and 124 percent of Grand County’s average part-time employee total cost (given the same number of hours worked).

While I don’t want to tread too deeply into the politics of this issue, I do want to address some economic statistics that Mr. Jackson brought up. Grand County has the second highest per-capita income in Utah, and the seventh lowest monthly wage in Utah. This indicates a serious class divide between the relatively high-income retirees, and the relatively low-income working class. If the salaries for the governing body are so low that the working class simply can’t afford to put the time in, then you will have no working-class representation.

–Chris Baird

Grand County Clerk/Auditor


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