State could save $1 million by eliminating Department of Community and Culture

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 19 2011 11:27 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — The state could save more than $1 million annually by eliminating the Department of Community and Culture and turning over its functions to other agencies.

Another option, turning the department into a smaller, cultural commission by moving housing and community development functions, would reduce the state budget by more than $600,000.

Both options, presented Wednesday to the Legislature's Workforce Services and Community and Economic Development Interim Committee, would also carry initial transition costs.

Keeping the department intact but consolidating some administrative functions could result in savings of more than $440,000, without any relocation and other transition expenses.

Department officials stressed the impact of any changes need to be examined further.

The committee took no action on the report, presented in response to legislation last session calling for a study of ways to restructure the department to make it more efficient and reduce costs.

But Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, said the department should be kept intact.

"This department is important and it provides an important function to the state. It doesn't mean we can't save money there. It doesn't mean we can't operate more efficiently," Stevenson said.

He said he has "come to the conclusion that it isn't something that needs to go away or be disbanded. … I think it would be dysfunctional if we try to cut it up and put it in different places."

The department's divisions include arts and museums, housing and community development, Indian affairs, history and the state library. It has more than 200 employees.

Earlier this year, Gov. Gary Herbert announced a new multicultural commission would take over most of the functions of the department's Office of Ethnic Affairs, which saw its budget slashed from $750,000 to $250,000 last session.

Rep. Wayne Harper, R-West Jordan, initially sought to dismantle the department in the 2011 Legislature, to streamline government. Instead, lawmakers agreed the idea should be studied.

Email: lisa@desnews.com Twitter: dnewspolitics

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