Commission approves 2023 budget, bids farewell

By David Boyle
News Director
The San Juan County Commission passed a 2023 budget and recognized outgoing commissioners at their last meeting of 2022.
At their December 20 meeting, members of the commission approved the 2023 budget. The 2023 budget adopted anticipates $15.3 million in revenue and $15.2 million in expenditures for the upcoming year.
Earlier iterations of the budget proposed $17.1 million in expenditures, but the county was able to reduce that amount in order to balance the budget.
County Administrator Mack McDonald explained some one-time purchase needs were able to be covered through Federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. This includes some tasers and computers for the sheriff’s department.
One item not finalized at the meeting is the allocation of $1.7 million to bring county employees up to a marketable wage.
McDonald explained that all county employees will receive a wage increase to match the increase in health insurance premiums, plus at least one-percent wage increase.
While all county employees are expected to see at least a slight increase in pay, some could be due to receive a significant bump in compensation. The results of a recent wage-market analysis will allow the county to match wages to keep employment competitive at the county.
Other aspects of the budget were laid out during an hour-long presentation of the final budget. The meeting followed a public hearing on December 19 as well as meetings between department heads, administration and members of the county commission.
At the meeting, San Juan County staff recognized Commissioners Kenneth Maryboy and Willie Grayeyes for their years of service to the county. County HR Generalist Ann Marie Burgess presented the recognition to the two outgoing county commissioners.
While Maryboy served two terms on the county commission prior to 2018, he and Grayeyes election in 2018 was a historic first, with the county represented by a majority of Native American commissioners for the first time.
During the four year tenure, Burgess noted the commissioners led the county through the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.
“You also worked with various government and private entities to get electricity to the people of the Westwater community. That is historic as well,” said Burgess.
“Working with community partners, you’ve been able to make sure secure voting is accessible to all residents of San Juan County.
“During the years that you have served as county commissioners, you have made San Juan County your priority and we do appreciate everything that you guys have done.”
Commissioner Bruce Adams added another historic moment from the commissioner’s tenure was the signing of the Utah Navajo Water Rights Settlement agreement. The settlement will recognize a reserved water right of 81,500 acre-feet of water annually from the Colorado River, including the San Juan River, as well as $218 million for water infrastructure in the Utah portion of the Navajo Nation, including drinking water to many Navajo Utah homes.
Grayeyes noted that the water settlement right will not bring water to every Navajo Utah home, highlighting the challenges of providing services, particularly in a rough geographical area like Navajo Mountain.
“Come out, bring a sledgehammer. Let’s break those boulders down. That’s what we need to do in order to address the dire need of my people.” Said Grayeyes.
“That’s what I’ve always advocated. I don’t look for recognition. I’d rather see services. I’m still working on water lines, power lines, roads, stuff like that. Those will be continued even though I’ve been decommissioned.”
Adams also highlighted Grayeyes’ work to bring awareness for a proposed road between Oljato and Navajo Mountain, including bringing the Lt. Governor and several state legislators to tour the area.
“I think your influence was paramount in getting them to recognize that and getting the state to put up the money to look at the environmental part of it,” said Adams.
“I think the state is committed to that whole idea, whether you’re on the commission or not. You got it started, you got the ball rolling and I think it’ll continue.”
Grayeyes expressed appreciation to Adams for his sentiments and also expressed appreciation for those who brought issues to his attention.
“Even those people that have approached me in ways that are not appreciated but bless them, I pray for them. I let them yell at me because I feel that if they can do that, they are able to heal themselves,” said Grayeyes.
“Get whatever they have in their system through their voice and be heard. Everybody, as I understand, is a healer. If you can say something good, positive, to a person you have changed the negative out of the person.” 
Administrator Mack McDonald also expressed his thanks to the two outgoing commissioners,
“Oftentimes it’s pretty hard to do the public’s bidding and hope you’re on the right footing. Sometimes it’s a tug of war between different constituents and their concerns but it’s been a pleasure working with you guys throughout these last four years.
“Learning from you, learning about the culture and the nuances of trying to get government work to take place here in San Juan County.”
Later on in the meeting, Maryboy also expressed his appreciation to McDonald and his work as county administrator, including working toward the goals the commission talked about when McDonald was hired.
“You fulfilled those needs and those responsibilities. I do appreciate that. I wish to have you continue to do what you can for the people in San Juan County,” said Maryboy.
“Some of the things that we talked about was what we just barely did, giving a raise to our staff, the people, these are the people that make us look good as a county commission”
At the conclusion of the meeting, Maryboy shared some thoughts including gratitude to the county and fellow commissioners.
“Not to say I’m gone forever, I’ll be back in four years,” said Maryboy. “I think its been quite a struggle trying to do the things you can for those that are less fortunate and also those that are Native Americans in San Juan County.”
Maryboy echoed the sentiments of the importance of the Navajo Utah Water Rights Settlement, as well as other work he emphasized, including improving access to healthcare and protecting voting rights, as well as work to try and bring more road maintenance responsibilities on the Navajo Nation back to the county.
“I think I’ve done my part, done my best. I wasn’t really a popular individual, mainly because of some of the things that we just barely covered,” said Maryboy.
“One of the things the Bears Ears National Monument, but thats our prayer and our traditional values are still there. I still feel that it needs to be protected and I will continue to stand by to make sure that it is, for our community, and the visitors into San Juan County to enjoy what they see there.”
Maryboy added he will continue to advocate for the people in San Juan County.

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