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Tooele County commissioners are rethinking a controversial 24 percent salary increase for themselves.
Faced with public outcry since they approved the raise 2-1 on July 7, commission Chairman Wade Bitner said the panel will revote the issue Aug. 4 at 7 p.m.
"We recognize the timing wasn't right for the increase in salary, except the cost-of-living adjustment," Bitner said in an interview.
All other county employees received a 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).
Bitner and Commissioner Myron Bateman voted in favor of a substantial bump in their own salaries the first time around. Bitner wouldn't say how he plans to vote in the upcoming meeting.
"I'm not at liberty to disclose my vote in advance," Bitner told The Tribune on Thursday. "It's fair to the public to learn of my vote at the commission meeting, not in a newspaper article."
But he told The Tooele Transcript Bulletin: "As county commissioners, we recognize that our salary adjustment would be better off postponed for an indefinite time period so that we would receive the COLA only until at least the end of the year."
Commissioner Shawn Milne, the only commissioner up for re-election next year, cast the lone no vote in the previous meeting.
He praised his colleagues for being willing to rethink their original votes.
"The re-evaluation over the last couple of weeks proves how the Tooele commission is receptive to citizen feedback," Milne said.
Despite the initial vote, the salary hike jumping from $69,959 to $87,023 annually has not gone into effect.
Tooele County has been buffeted in recent years by financial problems. In 2013, to avoid a slide toward bankruptcy, commissioners approved a $2.6 million property tax increase, which resulted in a 5 percent to 7 percent bump in residents' overall tax bills. The county also reduced the payroll by 118 employees to 300 through layoffs and attrition, and chopped $2.9 million in expenses from 21 department budgets.
A recently completed independent audit indicated signs of improvement.
Among the findings in the 127-page audit, are that the county's long-term liabilities were $29.5 million at the end of 2014 a 5 percent decrease from the prior year because of reduced debt.
About 80 residents attended the most recent commission meeting and Bitner praised the turnout.
"We like to see people engaged," Bitner said. "We are in the process of doing some county planning for 10-15-year plan. We are attempting to meet the needs of the people in that time period, but we need the public's input."
Jeff McNeill, a county resident and failed 2014 commission candidate, said the pay hike was "self-serving" and "disingenuous."
"They knew about the pay before they ran for office," McNeill said.
Raymond Dixon, a resident and regular attendee at commission meetings, was another vocal opponent of the pay hike.
"I don't think it's right for them to take a raise with the financial conditions the county is in," he said.
Records show commissioners are paid less than 10 of the county's elected officials. County Attorney Scott Broadhead earns $108,293 making him the highest paid officeholder.