County passes $16.2 million budget, including $800K pay equity program
By Suzanne Dean
MANTI—The Sanpete County Commission has passed a $16.2 million budget, including a $150,000 tax increase.
The budget, passed Tuesday following two public hearings, is up about $500,000 from the $15.6 million last year.
“We committed to the people (at a public hearing on the tax increase in late November) that we would review the budget,” said Commissioner Steve Lund. “We reviewed it again and again.”
He said the review validated the months-long process the county went through to formulate the budget. “I believe we are now at a place where we are fiscally responsible,” he said.
The budget incorporates major steps to create pay equity in all county positions. That effort will cost about $800,000, Commission Chairman Scott Bartholomew said.
In the past, “you had people from one department who were getting increases, while others weren’t, for whatever reason,” Bartholomew said.
Meanwhile, the county had lost 49 employees in the past five years. “That’s very expensive,” the commission chairman said.
Lund gave an example of an employee in the Building Inspector’s Office. He was in his early 30s and had completed certifications in almost every building trade.
Lund described him as a “rising star” in his field. But “Washington City in Washington County stole him away from us,” he said. “Almost everybody we’ve lost is of that caliber.”
Earlier in the year, the commissioners set up a panel, including Stacey Lyons, county auditor, and Keith Jensen from the Sheriff’s Office., among others.
The panel reviewed every job in the county, evaluating skills required, the longevity of the person holding the job, and pay in comparable-size counties such as Wasatch, Summit and Sevier.
Then they recommended how much pay should be adjusted to bring jobs in line with the market and with other jobs in the county. And for the first time, a job description was written for every job.
Bartholomew said the commissioners decided to bit the whole bullet, to implement all of the equity raises, this year. He said he told the panel, “We do not want to go back to the public again and say we need a tax increase to fund this.”
Commissioner believe the wage-scale plan can be sustained going forward. “We’re confident we can do this,” he said.
Elected officials were not included in the equity-raise program. So before final passage of the budget, commissioners gave a 9 percent raise to the auditor, treasurer, clerk, recorder, assessor and attorney.
Sheriff Brian Nielson got a 20 percent raise, from $66,400 to $79,688. Bartholomew said that was because his pay was so far behind other county sheriff’s in the state.