The Morgan County Council voted to eliminate two positions effective immediately. The positions of Council Secretary and Economic Development Director were created last year. They were both eliminated in a vote by the council to reduce the county budget in the last council meeting.
The council reviewed the status of the budget given two significant developments that occurred last year, but have impact on the 2018 budget. The first impact was a re-evaluation by the State of Utah of the value of the SLC Pipeline. The property tax on the pipeline is one of the largest single sources of property tax in the county. The pipeline appealed the valuation to the State of Utah. The state reviewed the value of the asset and determined that it had been overvalued for several years. The result of this finding is that the pipeline was refunded $502,702.80 in past property taxes from the county. While the review of asset values is a normal process, county treasurer Bonnie Thomson indicated that this is the largest refund she has seen.
The second area is 911 service for the county. As originally reported in June of 2017, the cost for service has been approximately $83,000 per year, but the county saw the costs for 911 service for 2018 increase to $356,000. Weber area dispatch provides this service for Morgan County. Dispatch officials say they need the increased money to help pay for new computer-aided dispatch software recently purchased, and they are saving up for an upcoming phone system upgrade. Dispatch officials estimate that it would cost Morgan between $500,000 and $800,000 to run this service.
The county unanimously approved a tax increase to cover the expenses for the 911 costs as well as other capital improvement and library costs in December of last year. Several councilmembers felt that the county budget remained too high and that there was risk of spending more than the tax revenues in 2018. Councilmember Roland Haslam proposed the elimination of the positions saying, “I guess I will be the bad guy.. We’ve got to do something…As the county council that is our responsibility to our citizens.” The vote to eliminate the positions passed 4 to 3. Councilmember Barber expressed the desire to fully understand the costs to outsource these functions before a decision was made.
The combined salaries of the two positions with benefit costs included are approximately $170,000. The total costs of the two departments is approximately $400,000. Some of the costs for economic development will remain even with the elimination of the Economic Development Director.
It is unclear how much the county will save with the elimination of these two positions. The plan is the outsource the HR functions provided by the council secretary and have the current clerk’s office staff provide the council support and payroll functions. When the county outsourced the HR function in the past the cost was approximately $24,000 per year. The county paid consultants to provide the economic development function at a cost of approximately $42,000 per year previous to hiring the economic development director. County Chairman Ned Mecham indicated that he expects that the elimination of these positions will save the county approximately $220,000 annually. Councilmember Barber indicated that he will be requesting that the council review the projected costs and savings in the next council meeting.
Both the council secretary and economic development director were in the council meeting when their positions were eliminated. Neither had any advance notice that their positions were being considered for elimination. The council took a brief recess from the meeting to talk with the employees after the vote was completed. They also provided one month of severance to both employees.
Please note: We printed the news that “County Council cuts two employees to reduce expenses” on March 2nd, 2018 with the wrong picture. We printed this article with the picture of Rodney Haslam, not Roland Haslam. They are brothers, but Rodney has not been on council since 2010 and has nothing to do with this story. Please do not send negative comments to Rodney. Please be civil with all of our elected officials past and present, including Roland. We will be printing a correction on the front page of this week’s edition on March 9th, 2018. We apologize for any confusion this might have caused, especially to Rodney Haslam and his family. Thank you. – Nate Vineyard, General Manager