Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Here We Go Again - 80% Deja vue

The Fire Board (aka County Council) apparently likes the idea of a 76+% tax increase, but they continue to fail to answer the simple question – why? Or, for that matter, many of the question that were raised last year in a similar attempt.

(That attempt caused a citizens' petition which gather signatures from 22% of Wasatch registered voters for a chance to vote on the issue.  However the Fire District did not follow proper procedures, so no election was proffered.)

When entities are not open andforthcoming, as has been demonstrated by the Fire Board over at least the last year, doubts arise. When transparency is not readily apparent, questions arise. (Speaking of which, the entries on transparent.utah are not meeting the requirements.)   
Doubts and questions about proper management finally overcome citizen apathy and result in action, including referenda.
  • Is the proposed increase to purchase new fire equipment, if so what and when?
  • Is the increase to cover potential liabilities from pending lawsuits?
  • Is it to cover litigation expense in excess of $1 million in recent years, and $179K in 2014?
    • Was that litigation caused by failure to follow proper procedures for the "enterprise" fund?
  • Is it to offset the possible loss of “assessment” funds?
  • Or is it to cover the 5% pay increase which was instituted in 2013 (a deficit budget)?
  • Or possibly for the current budget shortfall which was covered from other funds.
  • Why does the 2014 WCFD budget show a $121,691 surplus?
      Won't that money simply stay on the general ledger/fund or CapProj or ??? The budget shows $300K for Capital Projects already - what is it for - specifically? It appears that all of these funds are simply different names for excess funds.
      (Simply deleting that surplus would decrease the increase to about 60%)
It appears WCFD has (or had) sufficient money recently:
   (From the 2012 WCFD Annual Financial Statement)

"The assets of Wasatch County Fire District exceeded the liabilities as of the close of the most recent year by $4,503,658 (net position).Of this amount $2,192,750 (net position ‐ unrestricted) may be used to meet the government’s ongoing obligations to citizens and creditors. "

"At the end of the year 2012, the Wasatch County Fire District’s governmental funds reported combined ending fund balances of $2,155,721.The General Fund is the chief operating fund of the District. At the end of the current year, the unassigned fund balance of the General Fund was $657,511."

"The Capital Projects Fund is used to account for the costs incurred in acquiring and improving sites, constructing and remodeling facilities and procuring equipment necessary for providing programs for the citizens of the District."

Then there are Impact Fees for “Public Safety”  which are now being used for fire station improvements. Over $100K of spending reported for 2013 and $500+K for the next few years, but it does not appearing in the WCFD budget as they are “county funds.” These are fees (taxes) paid for new home construction to partially offset their causing the need for more services. To maintain a clearer, and more transparent, of the financial situation of the district they should be reported in the budget.

What of fees paid by other entities for service rendered by the WCFD (wildfires, etc.), where is that information? In Dec 2012, Chief Giles mention $750,000 (?) in grants received in the past, was the use of that money budgeted openly and transparently?

The recent proposed budget shows interest accrued of $14,302 would indicate a balance of ca $700K in the Capital Project Fund.

When asking about the amount in that fund, I am told “there is not a lot of activity in Capital Projects fund from 1999 to present.” and that “The District accounts for its activities in one of three different funds and each fund has a budget. “ (apparently General, Enterprise and Assessment – NOT Capital Projects or Impact fees)

According to the annual Report:
The Capital Projects Fund is used to account for the costs incurred in acquiring and improving sites,
constructing and remodeling facilities and procuring equipment necessary for providing programs for the
citizens of the District.”

As of December 31, 2012, $1,498,210 was available for use and is shown as an assigned fund balance of the Capital Projects Fund.”

Are there OTHER funds, transfers and moneys elsewhere? Was, or is, money being transferred to cover other “needs” of the county?

This report is not about the Firemen, but of the management of the fire department. Openness, honesty and integrity will go a long way to restore the faith of the people. Further “stonewalling” will simply make it harder to work together to solve the problems and continue to insure that citizens receive what they deserve – protection at a proper price.

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