CEDAR HILLS Elected officials in Cedar Hills will soon receive a pay increase that will bring them closer to the average wages of other Utah County officials.
In a 3-2 vote this week, Cedar Hills upped the mayor's compensation from $9,000 annually to $13,200. Members of the City Council also saw their annual salary increase from $3,600 to $7,200, doubling what they had been receiving.
"I think it is important to realize that our mayor and council are currently functioning dramatically below their counterparts in the rest of Utah County," city manager Konrad Hildebrandt said.
The city contacted other Utah Valley city governments to find out what they were receiving in compensation. Of the respondents, the average part-time mayor was making $14,000 a year and the average pay of council members was around $8,100.
At a meeting this week, Cedar Hills' council debated the issue for more than an hour. Several remembered that each time it had come up before it had been put off.
"I have said it numerous times, and nobody wants to vote themselves a raise, but it needs to be done," council member Charelle Bowman said. "I will bring this up again next year if it doesn't get done, but next year is a voting year, and we are going to have candidates, which will be an issue. I would rather take care of this now for generations to come."
Others agreed that while a vote by elected officials to give themselves raises is rarely popular, this might be a good time to deal with it so future councils don't have to deal with the pressure.
"In 17 months there isn't going to be a Mayor Mike McGee to kick around. There is going to be someone else here because I am not running for re-election," McGee said. "So from my perspective I think it is important for whoever decides to run for mayor to not have to fall to the public-perceived ideas and deal with something like this at the beginning of their term, and I believe the mayor should be properly compensated."
Other members of the council worried about the perception.
"Without a thriving sales-tax base, I think this is inappropriate," council member Marisa Wright said. "I think it is a bad time. I just don't think we should talk about this until Wal-Mart is up and running."
However, Hildebrandt pointed out that increasing the compensation was part of a reallocation of existing funds in the budget, and it would not increase taxes.
In fact, Cedar Hills reduced its certified tax rate from the county-recommended .001715 to .00169. That's a small decrease but a savings nonetheless, he said.
Jerry Dearinger, a Cedar Hills resident who attended the meeting after hearing rumors of a large increase in the officials' compensation, wanted to offer the council a few words of encouragement after realizing the position they were in."I guess to me there is honor in saying our officials are the lowest-paid around," he said. "Now, if you are five times lower than others, then maybe that's not right. But I think if you pick a reasonable number, others will have a hard time complaining about it."