Showing posts with label Tax. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tax. Show all posts

Friday, September 25, 2015

Those Who Do Not Learn From History . .

As we contemplate this $62 Million bond for two new schools and a POOL  (closer to $80,000,000 total with interest), consider the possibility of  'overruns.'    History may offer some good experience to learn from.

Here's a bit of fiscal history for the school district:
   2008-9 budget shows $23M for high school - funding source unknown 
The Utah Legislature had requested a performance audit of school building construction, 21 School Districts were studied. While the report did not name the individual districts audited, it was quite clear that the one school which was highlighted as "the most expensive high school being built during our review period." was right here in Heber.  Pertinent excerpts can be found here., or check out the complete 2008 Utah Legislative Audit on School Building Construction

For those new in the District AND for those with longer memories, you may want to review the old North School History (aka Wasatch Education Center, now)  Check this 1998-2004 History

For Fiscal History, it is also appropriate to look at Budgets.   Try this from 2013 
How about the Football Stadium at $3,500,000 plus?   Here's a brief budget overview of budgets from 2004 to 2013 comparing revenues to enrollment year by year.
2005 vs. 2013 TOTAL revenue79.4%
2005 vs. 2013 gen fund 71.5%

See the post below about property tax receipts which were over the School Budget (again.) Here's how they handled the surplus in a 'get-away' meeting on 24 Apr 2013:

Daniels Summit, recording part 1- WCSD Daniels Summit Lodge Meeting 042413 A– local school district funding 101, 32:30 min. into recording business administrator talks about total dollars for 2013 budget is $1.5 mil better than expected. 37:00 min into recording school board compares spending taxpayer’s money to doing drugs “Just say no”. 37:30 into -All total expenses. 40:00 min into- better fiscal situation than last year. 41:00 min. supt. introduction to digital conversion. Digital conversion presentation by secondary curriculum director, Paul Sweat. $1 million for next (1) year, 6th and 7th grades! following years, high school conversion.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Overtaxation OR 'Community' reserves?

Once again in 2015, the School District collected an extra $1.6 million over budget.   2014, 2013
Don't worry, it will all be (or has been) spent.  (School is emphasized here as the largest tax recipient, and they want to bond for more.)
(For older school budget analyses, click here)

And all of the other property tax recipients also receive windfalls. For example:
County $502K, 5.98%;       Heber $35K, 3.2%;    Midway $17K, 2.5%;       Fire $77K, 5.5%
         Would any entity consider reducing taxes one year because of this continuing overtaxation?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Comments: "Citizens" for "Better" Schools on Facebook

Regrettably, or thankfully, I don't "DO" Facebook, but some folks are promoting the $62,000,000 School (and POOL, again) Bond (good for them).  I can read it, but not comment so I will post a few responses here.
Names of posters have been removed here.  It's assumed that "Citizens for..."  is the page moderator.

Moderator:  (Re Year-Round) "It isn't a failing option as far as test scores and retention for the students. It is a very viable option. It is the parents that are moving the school districts away from the YRS option. Smaller schools are better academically and adding on only makes the number of students bigger in that building. Having smaller numbers in more schools is an academically better environment for the students. That is why the district does not want to add on and would rather build new schools. As parents we do have a choice in this and your questions are great! Thank-you!"  AND
Moderator: Just to be clear, year round school is not a long-term option because it only solves the problem of overcrowding at the elementary level (which includes TIS) but does not deal with the overcrowding at the high school or Rocky Mountain Middle School. Year round school might delay the need to bond by a few years but the school board would need to bond relatively soon for new buildings.

Response: Yes, parents DO have a choice, as do ALL taxpayers and voters.  It would have been nice if more (positive) information had been provided and discussed with the public and the viability of year-round and better utilization.  As the only presenter to the school board said - parents and teachers generally liked YRE once they learned about it and used it.  She also stated that it needs a year or two of community preparation to educate the public. For more of her comments.  
 (This is a fairly objective report posted by the School district's (paid) Social Media Manager who monitors and reports posts for the School district.)

Commenter: We moved from year round schools which we did for 7 years- my guess is the real reason parents voted to go back could stem to the nightmare it is when you have elementary kids on year round and older kids on traditional. I loved it when all my kids were year round/ we really enjoyed traveling when the rest of the world didn't and found that even in tough terms/stretches/homework loads, you could do anything for 9 weeks knowing you'd get 3 to catch up and relax.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

The STEALTH $62 Million School Bond - YOUR TAX Increase

As the annual County Tax Notices did not include the effects of the proposed $62 MILLION School Building Bond, here is an example of what you can expect for your property TAX, if the bond appears on the ballot in November and passes.  (Update:the school board DID approve the bond to be voted on THIS year - through a mail-in ballot.)

Public Meeting Notice: "on August 18,2015, the Board of Education (the “Board”) of the Wasatch County School District, Utah (the“District”), adopted a resolution (the “Resolution”)"

It is uncertain at this time whether taxes will change in 2016 or 2017. (Update: if passed, taxes WILL increase next year.) 

Approval of this $62,000,000 proposed bond:

  • Will increase your school tax bond (debt) burden by over 60%, and
  • Will increase your total school taxes by about 15% (for 2/3 or your total property Tax)
  • AND increase your TOTAL property tax bill by about 10%

If you would like to compute YOUR new taxes go to this link to determine your own increased TAX burden.
  • Enter YOUR 2015 Property Value and taxes in the GREEN boxes 
  • Enter YOUR School taxes in the YELLOW boxes for 2014 & 2015 
  • This blog will reflect the most recent entry.
Also please note:
  • After a “truth” in taxation hearing Summer 2016 – the new building operating tax would probably begin BEFORE new buildings are finished.  
  • NO expenses appear to have been budgeted yet for modification of OLD pool area (= more $$$$)
  • If the bond does NOT pass, the School District has 'promised' to implement better utilization of the existing schools - at a MUCH lower cost.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

WSD Computerized Education Cost

The Wasatch School District was kind enough to respond to a GRAMA request from WTPA about expenditures for 'Digital Conversion Expenses" (aka known as 'computer oriented education').  

This post is merely a report on the financial aspects, and does not intend to comment on the viability and efficacy of this new pedagogy.    Hopefully the school district will soon report how effective digitization has been in increasing educational outcome.  In the meantime try this analysis , or here, or here, pros and cons,  and here 
 A grand total for 3 years of $5.7 Million already, PLUS at least $771,773 proposed 2016-7.  That corresponds to an average expenditure of about $1,000 per student or about $21,000 per teacher over the three year period.

Devices: 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 Students Avg cost 2016-17
Devices RMMS $518,769

850 $610
Devices TIS $273,158 $324
844 $324
Cases $52,000 $61,000

Projectors $42,000 $147,000 $344,000

Wireless upgrades $75,000 $77,000 $79,000

Yearly Total $960,927

Devices WHS
1664 $878
Yearly Total

Devices 3-4

$425,250 1200 $360
Teacher laptop upgrades

$177,600 270.62 $656 ??
Yearly Total

$1,025,850 5710 $1,025,850
Device Repair & Upgrades


Digital curriculum: 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 3 yr total $3,732,677 2016-17
Core digital curriculum $91,010 $257,009 $387,791 $735,810
Supplemental digital curriculum $45,445 $85,129 $119,854 $250,428
Curriculum subtotal: $136,455 $342,138 $507,645 $986,238

Schoolnet IIS
Supporting change of practice $187,630 $262,980 $303,330 $753,940
Planning/project management $84,250 $97,250 $92,000 $273,500

Technical support $10,500 $14,000 $17,500 $42,000

Negotiated savings
-$94,000 -$92,000 -$186,000

Total curriculum: $418,835 $754,348 $828,475 $2,001,658

$1,379,762 $2,500,248 $1,854,325 2013-16: $5,734,335

per student

NOTES: Figures have been realigned somewhat to make it easier to understand.  The top half seems to 'hardware' expenses, the bottom is curriculum costs.  Totals were added for the respective fiscal years yielding a grand total for 3 years of $5.7 Million.
  • It is unclear whether the curriculum cost will continue as yearly expenditures. As most of the figures for 2015-6 are again presented for 2016-7,  we may assume a continuing annual expense.
  • It is also unclear why no continuing hardware expense is shown for 2016-7 "??"
  • As no enrollment figures (other than district totals were found at the enrollment figures were found here for per student average 'cost.'  Avg cost for "Device 3-4" used half the listed total elementary enrollment.
  • The teacher count was computed using the pupil per teacher ratio.

Much of this money was "found" money in property taxes which were received in excess of the original budget expectations. Some may opine that it is actually from the 50% Truth in Taxation increase of 2007, which has allowed, created, caused or precipitated much of the free spending philosophy of recent years. (Football Stadium, marble floors, sports facilities, etc.)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Is a New Heber City Justice Court NEEDED?

At the recent Public Hearing for the proposed Heber City Public Safety building, some officials reportedly indicated 'that the county justice court is already heavily used and that city cases must wait too long in many cases.'   

That's possibly true and within a 'few' years that may likely be true.
But the actual current schedule does not seem to demonstrate that. Here's an analysis of the schedules (obviously from an "outside" view)from the Utah Court Calendar 
  • Currently, Heber Justice Court operates Thursday and Friday only
  • Wasatch Justice averages a bit over 3 days a week
  • The District Court is NOT close to fully scheduled
  • Cases schedules two weeks out are only 20% of current schedules ( in other words, there generally does not appear to be a long wait.)
  • Wasatch County has about  40 cases per week, 
    • Most cases are Traffic, 50-60% (?)
    • Heber appears to average 80 cases a week and is only scheduled 8 days a month
    • A large number of cases are traffic - 80% (?) 
  • (raising speed limit on Center St and other locales where it would be safe to do would probably decrease case numbers by 10% )
  •  Is Heber Justice more efficient?  
Does that few days justify $2 Million in new construction which is proposed for a quarter(?) of the building?   If, when a new Heber office are built, could not the Council chamber be also used as a court - as it is now?

    Can the courts also not be used more efficiently?   Saturdays, more hours per day?  It might be cheaper, and more efficient, to hire more people.   Has an analysis been done to determine that?

Raw Data:

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Heber City TAX INCREASE - 31%

With an upcoming "Truth" in Taxation Hearing coming up on August 12 for a 31% increase in Heber City property taxes, due to the proposed $7.5 Million Public Safety building, here a few comparative costs for 'similar' recent buildings in the US.

Sq Ft Cost Population $/sqft $/person
MN Princeton 2012 22,540 $2,050,000 4,674 $91.00 $439.00
NH Bow 2013 30,000 $7,700,000 7,519 $257.00 $1,024.00 Bond Failed
VT Hinesburg 2013 3,500 $1,055,200 4,340 $301.00 $243.00
UT WSU 2014 10,086 $2,500,000 25,000 $248.00 $100.00
MA Wayland
30,000 $5,800,000 13,000 $193.00 $446.00
MN Bayport 2013 20,000 $5,000,000 3,605 $250.00 $1,387.00
MN Waseca 2013 26,000 $2,300,000 9,434 $88.00 $244.00 Remodeled Store

20,304 $3,772,171 9,653 $204.00 $555.00

UT Heber
22,000 $7,700,000 12,260 $350.00 $628.00

8% 104% 27% 72% 13% % higher than avg
  • WSU is Weber State U.  and the population is student enrollment.
  • Notice the the people of Dow, NH killed the bond vote. (req'd 2/3).  At least one other was were voted on, but Heber did not offer that option.
  • Some were combined Fire and Police
  • Heber proposal is twice the average in cost, 72% higher per sq.ft. and 13% higher per capita
  • Notice Waseca was a remodeled Store, but I guess we can't say anything now about a remodeled school
  • People also need to remember that in 2011 Heber passed a resolution to "Study" Public Safety - and failed to even initiate the study.  (see the previous post)
Addendum: Pleasant Grove Utah, Vote failed by over 2 to 1 margin, cut cost and trying again.
UT Pleasant Gr 2013 ?? $19,000,000

UT Pleasant Gr 2014 49286 $14,980,505 35,000 $304.00 $428.00

     HC comp

95% 185% 13% 32%

change -21%

Addendum 2: Kaysville, UT     Vote Failed  57% to 43% in 2010, ignoring vote 2014
UT Kaysville 2010

Lost 57%
UT Kaysville 2014 20,000 $5,500,000 27,000 $275.00 $204.00

     HC comp

-29% 120% -21% -68%

Disclaimer: I am not necessarily opposed to a new facility, merely the cost, size and adding the Justice Court, which could be handled IN, or BY, the Wasatch County Court facility.     PERHAPS, half the size/cost MIGHT be appropriate. 

For more info and details, check these links:

Monday, December 16, 2013

Mil Rate or NEEDS

The idea of "we haven't raised the mil rate in years" or "we have a much lower rate than our neighbor" is at best a specious argument for a tax increase.   (At worst, it is intentional deception)
(Gee, our taxes would be CHEAP compared to Park City. even with an 80% increase)

You may have noticed the chart on the front page of the Wave demonstrating how much Wasatch needs/deserves/wants a tax increase.  The chart is basically mil rate expressed as property taxes 

As we should be aware, the question is NOT about mil rates, but about expenditures, the continuing discussion of mil rates simply disguises the truth.   Higher property values result in MORE revenue with lower rates.    Below is another look at the issue:

The first two columns are from the website, property value is computed as calculated as budget/mil rate.   The asterisks indicate the ones which  were used for WCFD propaganda purposes.   A better comparison would consider population, someone else can do that one.

Fire districts
mil rate Fire budget
Property Value
Park City 0.00095 $10,248,496 * $10,787,890,526.32
Wasatch 0.000244 $782,364
Millard 0.000314 $659,762 * $2,101,152,866.24
No Davis 0.001444 $1,922,516
Weber No. View 0.001131 $1,432,722
No Tooele 0.000771 $804,700
Moab 0.000489 $415,873 * $850,456,032.72
Juab 0.000793 $634,460
So Summit 0.000311 $221,575 * $712,459,807.07
No Summit 0.000589 $268,264 * $455,456,706.28
Castle valley 0.000427 $37,939

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.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Fire Tax Flames Out

This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.  (TS Eliot)

After nearly year of meetings, theatrics and a citizens' referendum, the 80% proposed and approved   TAX increase for the Wasatch Fire SSD, it all ended in confusion, lack of answers and NO tax increase.
  • Not because 20+ % of the voters (2156+) formally objected by signing the petition, 
  • Not because the Fire Board was convinced that the tax was too high,
  • Not because of lawsuits,
  • But simply because, they did not read, understand or follow the procedures and the law.
The Utah Tax Commission sent a letter to the Council explaining the deficiency. Read the letter here
  • Apologies?
  • Explanations?
  • A new era of communication, transparency and proper budgeting to come???
Hopefully we will not have a recurrence of this same fiasco in 2014.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Fire, Fire, False Alarm

How dare the voters challenge our decision to raise property taxes 80% ?  

We'll show them:
"PUBLIC NOTICE is herby (sic) given that the County Council of Wasatch County will (sic) Special Meeting in the Council Chambers, at the County Administration Building, 25 N. Main St. Heber City, Utah, commencing at 4:30 P.M., Thursday August 29th, 2013."   (posted ca 4:10 PM 28 Aug)  

Purpose:  "Consideration of Resolution to call a special election on November 5, 2013 to place the Wasatch County Fire District certified tax rate increase for public vote." 

Meeting (unofficial) minutes (the Special meeting wasn't so special):
 I move we go into the WCFD board meeting.

 Chair Capson:  We just called the meeting to see if it was possible to put this on the ballot.  It wasn't.

    Someone?   You mean it's not on the agenda 
Capson:  Yes
    I move we go into executive session.
End of public meeting.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Fire TAX approved at 80%

After hearing (but apparent not listening) to the public, the Fire Board approved the 80% TAX INCREASE.    Despite their promise to answer the question posed two weeks earlier, they failed to do so.

A people's referendum to allow the voters to weigh in on the issue is 
ready for signatures (1500 needed by October 5)


I'm afraid that a many questions from the public were left unanswered at the continuation of the "truth" hearing Wednesday.   I would also suggest that while Steve Capson gave an excellent overview of websites that can provide a great deal of information, there may have been a few, shall we say, inconsistencies with the declaration that the Fire Department SSD is "transparent."

  • Transparent Utah is not optional;
    •  "Participating state entities shall submit detail revenue and expense transactions from their general ledger accounting system to the UPFW at least quarterly and within one month after the end of the fiscal quarter."
    • Employee wages ARE required
      •  "Participating state entities will submit employee compensation detail information on a basis consistent with its fiscal year to the UPFW at least once per year" 
  • Wasatch County Fire district IS listed as a participant, but gives this result for 2013:
    • "We're sorry, but we did not find any transactions that met your criteria.
      Please revise your search above, or visit this entity's profile page for more information:"
  • AND the same for 2012
  • 2011 does have some figures, but NO names on salaries.
  •  is a very nice website and provides quite a bit of information
    • It does NOT, however include wages and salaries after 2011
    • The 2013 budget is not the same as posted on the SAO website, and shows a deficit.
    • Although Utah law requires posting minutes and recordings shortly (3 days?) after meetings, the only one seen today under  is the Aug 7, 2013 TnT Hearing   (which  might be helpful for you all to listen to so you can again hear the question which were asked in public comments.)
    • While most minutes may be posted, the 11/29/12 meeting, wherein the Tax increase hearing was approved, required several GRAMA requests and the aid of the ombudsman to finally get a couple of days before the August 2013 hearing.
I could continue, but I hope the point is made - this is NOT transparency, either that required by law or that openness which fosters communication and trust.

It has been repeatedly pointed out that there are MANY well qualified, competent and available people who are, or would be if asked or considered, in this county who would be more than happy to serve.   

As noted in the county code mentioned below, this is what your rules and direction are - The council is encouraged to cooperate with and fully utilize the county's special service districts and special service areas elected administrative control boards, appointed boards and commissions, and to give full consideration to information and recommendations communicated by such boards and commissions, in order to maximize citizen participation in county government.
I fail to understand why this is seems so difficult to understand or to put into place.   The more citizen involvement, the better the government, while we also include the standard that "That government is best, which governs least."

Regards, in transparency and openness, still looking forward to answers,