Salt Lake County's 11 elected officials got a pay raise Wednesday of between $2,000 and $2,300 annually, only to see the salary increase canceled hours later in a confusing double about-face.
The no raise means elected officials will serve until at least next June at the same annual salaries they got this year - $50,568 for the county clerk, surveyor, treasurer, recorder and assessor; $55,752 for the auditor and sheriff; and $58,536 for the attorney and three commissioners.Wednesday morning, Commission Chairman Mike Stewart said he wanted "to set the record straight," clarifying that elected officials next year would get the same 4 percent merit pay raise granted to county employees by next year's $220 million county budget.
But that contradicted pronouncements made earlier this month during the commission's budget adoption process, when Stewart had said elected officials would not get a raise.
By Wednesday afternoon there had been more backtracking, and Stewart said elected officials would not get a raise after all because the public may not have understood that next year's pay hike was intended for elected administrators as well as county employees.
"It just doesn't look like it was a clean process," Stewart said Wednesday afternoon. "The issue would be better addressed in June."
June is the month commissioners make any necessary midyear adjustments to the county's budget. The raise could be reconsidered then, but that's also the month commissioners set the county's tax rates for 1989. And if tax rates go up - no matter what the reason - it would be politically very difficult to give elected officials a raise.
However, 1989 county budget projections show a tax increase in June is very unlikely, unless county voters approve a general obligation bond issue - and the tax increase to pay it off - needed to build a new jail.
What's more, the total $24,000 that a 4 percent raise for elected officials would cost taxpayers already had been built into the adopted 1989 budget. So if commissioners intended all along for elected officials to get the 4 percent raise, what got them into this on-again, off-again pay mess?
Stewart said it was confusion over the public notice for the county's public hearing Dec. 9 on the budget. The hearing notice as published in local newspapers announced that a raise for elected officials was proposed in the 1989 budget.
But Stewart said he and other county officials mistakenly thought proper notice of the pay hike proposal was not included in the newspaper announcements. That led him and others to believe the raise could not be granted to elected officials.
Consequently, the officials' raise was not noted on the public hearing agenda, and Stewart made the public comment that officials would not get a raise.
Later, when it was pointed out that public notice had indeed been given, commissioners debated whether to grant elected officials the raise. But the reign of confusion that brought about Wednesday's flipflops ultimately caused commissioners to decide against the raise, for now at least.