Countys charter appears to be curbing costs

first_imgWhen a group of citizen freeholders designed Clark County’s voter-approved charter five years ago, they wanted to make sure it wouldn’t drive up the cost of running the government. Now, after three years of operating with the new charter, it appears they’ve accomplished that goal, at least when it comes to salaries of the council and the county’s top executive.But there are other variables that could drive up the cost of government under either system.“We did do a lot of intentional homework to make sure that the system itself would not be more expensive,” said Nan Henriksen, a former Camas mayor who chaired the group.In 2013, Clark County Board of Freeholders, a group of 15 individuals, met to begin writing a county charter, the basic guiding document for county government. The charter was approved by voters the next year. The county spent the following two years implementing it, changing the county’s three-member commission to a five-member council that would have a reduced role — and lower salaries. The charter also replaced the county administrator with a manager who would take over the county’s executive functions and answer to the county council.So is county government less costly under the new charter?Numbers provided by Clark County Human Resources show that Henriksen is correct, at least when it comes to what councilors and top executive are paid. The numbers show that the county’s three commissioners — who had legislative and executive powers — were each paid a salary of $102,228, for a combined $306,684. Under the charter, four councilors — who have only legislative power — are paid $53,000. The council chair is paid $66,250, bringing the total to $278,250.When they were crafting the charter, Henriksen said the freeholders looked at how the county’s executive and staff could drive up costs. She said that the freeholders considered having an elected executive, similar to what King County has. But she said that an elected executive would have to do high-level politicking as part of his or her job and would probably seek to hire a larger staff to help with governing. The council, not wanting to be outmatched, would also seek to hire more staff, adding to the expense of county government, she said.last_img

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