By Myrna Trauntvein
Juab County has earned a new status in the line-up of counties.
“I received a document from the Lt. Governor’s Office stating that Juab County has surpassed 11,000 people and is now a Fourth Class County in the State of Utah, rather than a Fifth Class County,” said Clinton Painter, Juab County Commission chairman.
A Fourth Class county has a population of 11,000 to 31,000.
“As of July 1, 2016, the population of the county was estimated as 11,010,” said Rick Carlton, commissioner.
In the Census of 2010, the population was listed as 10,246.
In Utah Code 17-50-501, Classification of Counties, it states that each county will be classified according to its population.
A county with a population of 700,000 or more is a county of the first class; a county with a population of 125,000 or more but less than 700,000 is a county of the second class; a county with a population of 31,000 or more but less than 125,000 is a county of the third class; a county with a population of 4,000 or more but less than 31,000 is a county of the fifth class; a county with a population of less than 4,000 is a county of the sixth class.
To date, there is only one county of the first class and that is Salt Lake County, with a population of 1,029,655.
“Is there a benefit to the county to be a Fourth Class County?” asked Byron Woodland, commissioner.
Utah’s 29 counties are classified between first and sixth class counties based on the Census Bureau’s population estimates. By splitting counties into classifications, the legislature is able to easily tailor legislation directed to counties based on population.
Virtually every legislation session, there will be legislation passed that treats counties differently based on classification; whether it be more stringent regulations for first and second class counties (who–the reasoning goes–has the population, the tax base, and the infrastructure to meet those regulations) or additional economic resources to fourth, fifth, and sixth class counties.
In moving from one classification of county to another, Juab joins Morgan (who went fifth to fourth in 2016) and Uintah County (from fourth to third in 2008) as the only counties to move from one classification to another over the last decade (Washington County barely missed the cutoff, having moved from a third class county to a second class county in 2006).
“Juab has been a fifth class county for at least the last decade,” said Woodland.
According to Utah Association of Counties (UAC) projections, Sanpete and Wasatch Counties are likely to move from fourth to third class counties sometime around 2019, while Cache County will become Utah’s newest second class county in 2017.
Of course, the biggest possible change is set to take place towards the end of the decade when Utah County’s population will exceed the 700,000 threshold of a first class county.
However, UAC, in an article published September 30, 2016, forecast that before Utah County exceeds the population threshold to become a first class county, the Legislature will likely consider moving the finish line again because a man-made construct such as county classification can always be changed.
“Just think of the enormous number of Salt Lake County specific sections of the code that will have to be amended once Utah County joins the state’s most exclusive club,” said UAC in the article.
There are 29 counties in the State of Utah. There were originally seven counties established under the provisional State of Deseret in 1849: Davis, Iron, Sanpete, Salt Lake, Tooele, Utah, and Weber.
The Territory of Utah was created in 1851 with the first territorial legislature meeting from 1851–1852. The first legislature re-created the original counties from the State of Deseret under territorial law as well as establishing three additional counties: Juab, Millard, and Washington.
All other counties were established between 1854 and 1894 by the Utah Territorial Legislature under territorial law except for the last two counties formed, Daggett and Duchesne. They were created by popular vote and by gubernatorial proclamation after Utah became a state.