A committee assigned by Salt Lake County commissioners to study the creation of a county chief administrator's post has finished its work, leaving commissioners to reach their own consensus on the proposed new job.
And while commissioners haven't discussed among themselves their concepts of the position, the three Republicans may be far apart on certain issues - such as the chief administrator's job description and salary.A draft report from the study committee makes no recommendation on whether the administrator job should be created. But if commissioners decide to appoint a chief administrator, that person should take over tasks from commissioners but should not assume any duties of other elected county officials, the draft says.
The report also makes no salary recommendation for the position but says the median salary for chief administrators in counties with populations comparable to that of Salt Lake County is more than $89,000 annually.
That salary would make a chief administrator the second-highest paid county employee, earning slightly less than the director of the Salt Lake City-County Health Department.
The draft report says a chief administrator should direct county departments, help commissioners develop county policies, assist with setting budgets and perform any other duties authorized by commissioners.
Commissioners now wear two hats - performing both legislative and executive functions in county government. They want to turn time-consuming daily executive tasks over to an administrator, leaving more time for commissioners to pursue long range policy goals.
A 1977 government modernization study first proposed hiring a county chief administrator to improve government efficiency, and the idea seems to resurface every few years. However, beyond the general concept, commissioners appear to have differing ideas about the administrator position.
Commissioner Bart Barker says that to attract the top quality applicants commissioners hope will seek the position, the county should be prepared to pay a salary within the same range that counties of similar size pay their administrators.
But Commissioner M. Tom Shimizu thinks the county should start a chief administrator at no more than $60,000 to $70,000 annually. Because county department heads - the people a chief administrator would supervise - already earn higher salaries, department heads should accept a salary cut and reduced managerial roles, Shimizu reasons.
However, that would require a restructuring of the county's salary schedule to maintain the equitability of salaries paid to department managers, their deputy managers and the chiefs of divisions within departments.
Instead of using money already budgeted to pay for creation of the chief administrator's job, Shimizu proposes the county pay for the position by reorganizing departments and eliminating duplicative jobs.
"I don't want to add another layer of government," Shimizu said. "We should consolidate and streamline, take this opportunity to see where we can save."
The final version of the committee report will be delivered to commissioners next week.