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State could save $1 million by eliminating department

State could save $1 million by eliminating department

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SALT LAKE CITY — The state could save more than $1 million annually by eliminating the Department of Community and Culture and turning over its functions to other agencies.

Another option, turning the department into a smaller, cultural commission by moving housing and community development functions, would reduce the state budget by more than $600,000.

Both options, presented Wednesday to the Legislature's Workforce Services and Community and Economic Development Interim Committee, would also carry initial transition costs.

Keeping the department intact but consolidating some administrative functions could result in savings of more than $440,000, without any relocation and other transition expenses.

It isn't something that needs to go away or be disbanded. I think it would be dysfunctional if we try to cut it up and put it in different places.

–Sen. Jerry Stevenson

Department officials stressed the impact of any changes need to be examined further.

The committee took no action on the report, presented in response to legislation last session calling for a study of ways to restructure the department to make it more efficient and reduce costs.

But Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, said the department should be kept intact.

"This department is important and it provides an important function to the state. It doesn't mean we can't save money there. It doesn’t mean we can't operate more efficiently," Stevenson said.

He said he has "come to the conclusion that it isn't something that needs to go away or be disbanded. … I think it would be dysfunctional if we try to cut it up and put it in different places."

The department's divisions include arts and museums, housing and community development, Indian affairs, history and the state library. It has more than 200 employees.

Earlier this year, Gov. Gary Herbert announced a new multicultural commission would take over most of the functions of the department's Office of Ethnic Affairs, which saw its budget slashed from $750,000 to $250,000 last session.

Rep. Wayne Harper, R-West Jordan, initially sought to dismantle the department in the 2011 Legislature, to streamline government. Instead, lawmakers agreed the idea should be studied.

"There's still a strong sentiment to have it dissolved," Harper said after the meeting. "But this is giving us options to consider."

The department was created in 2006, when then-Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. moved the economic development functions of what was the Department of Community and Economic Development into the governor's office.

Harper is also spearheading efforts to look at other cost savings in state government, but told another legislative committee Wednesday it may take as long as a year to come up with recommendations for consolidating other departments.

"Those issues have to be done carefully," Harper told the Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Interim Committee.

He and other members of the Advisory Council on Optimizing and Streamlining State Government gave the committee a list of 25 suggestions for cutting government expenses, such as moving agencies into state-owned buildings rather than leasing office space.

Harper said he expects to meet with Herbert in the next few weeks to discuss the future of the Department of Community and Culture as well as the possibility of combining other state agencies and reducing the size of the governor's Cabinet.

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Lisa Riley Roche


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