– Dalai Lama
Each level of government in the state of Utah is required to report financial data to the state in a timely manner. This includes all revenues, expenditures, as well as employee compensation. This information is then available to the public via the Transparent Utah website. Want to know what little Suzie’s teacher makes? This website tells you and is required to be updated by all levels of government.
Around Park City, the city and school district appear to be up to date and doing a good job. However, Summit County’s employee compensation information hasn’t been updated since the 2011 fiscal year. We reached out to the state and received the following response:
“Summit County has just not submitted its Employee Compensation data for the year 2012 which was due March 31, 2013 and also the year 2013 which was due March 31, 2014. I notified them by email to that effect on April 3, 2014 and they have yet to submit the data.”
We then reached out to Summit County. The response was “I thought I had uploaded the 2012 files, but apparently they either weren’t accepted or there was some sort of error. Regardless, that should be an easy enough fix. The problem is that when you have to reload the file, if they’ve already accepted one, it duplicates everything. And when you’re talking salaries, it appears that every employee is compensated twice as much or that the county paid twice as much for whatever.” The response for 2013 was that they were waiting “to reconcile our trial balance with that of the independent auditors before submitting the file.”
Do we think anything sinister is going on? No. We are confident people are just busy, have limited time, and feel other things have higher priority. The problem is that it’s Utah law to provide this information in a timely fashion. We have sat through many Summit County Council meetings regarding the failure to pay property taxes. In most cases the individual will have an excuse. The response from the county council is always, “did we, the county, have any fault in your ability to pay your taxes?” The answer is usually something like “no, I just didn’t check my mail for the statement”.
If we hold Summit County to this same standard, it appears the 2011 data unexpectedly didn’t get uploaded two years ago. Two years later it’s still not updated. Is that ultimately the State of Utah’s fault? Probably not. With regard to auditors not blessing data, again that timing ultimately falls back on the county. Could we not pay our property taxes and then use the excuse, “well, the accountant we hired is pretty backed up.”? Probably not.
This is important for two reasons. First, the county’s government should be held to the same standard it holds its own citizens to. Second, when someone is trying to make conclusions about the people whose salaries they pay for and are also relying on, recent data is important. This is even more true during an election year.
While we understand things can get busy, Summit County needs to correct this immediately. Otherwise, they should say to all the people who don’t pay their property taxes by December 1, “That’s OK. We understand. This is a busy time of year … just pay it when you can.”