Southern Utah News Articles
Special service districts
The recent events in the county prompted me to write this letter. There have been several Letters to the Editor regarding events that have taken place involving elected officials; it seems we have all had to weather the storm.
I read the Letter to the Editor signed by several of the elected officials, and I would like to thank them. I have worked alongside all of them in one capacity or another, and those who signed that letter are dedicated to this county, have a great deal of integrity, and seem to have a strong sense of ethics.
I am sure everyone has heard about special service districts, not knowing what a service district is. The water is muddy that defines them and even the state legislature is trying to figure out how they should be governed. The Utah State Auditor is not going to do an audit, pour over information, and publish a report based on speculation. Whether we like it or not, that is a fact.
Special service districts came about to assist local government in providing services to a county and originally there were very few laws governing them. Unfortunately, special service districts evolved faster than the laws. The state legislature is still playing catch up. Here is the issue if you are self-governed by ethics, then laws only serve as a guideline. However if you lack ethics, then laws have to be created to govern your actions.
Canyon Land is a Special Service District/Local District. Canyon Land has been operating in Kane County since approximately 2006 or 2009. They are their own taxing district as they tax themselves and pay themselves. The issue is Canyon Land was using Kane County’s Tax ID Number. The elected Clerk /Auditor for the county was paid to do the bookkeeping for Canyon Land, and willingly and knowingly used the County’s Tax ID. That was not disclosed to the county until 2015. That means when filling out a 1099, they would have had to put the Tax ID number on the form or any tax documents.
During that time, one of the commissioners for Kane County was serving as a board member and as an independent paid consultant for Canyon Land. The commissioner was paid a separate payment of $5000 per year for being a member of the District Board. The money he was paid was reported on a 1099, with the commissioner’s name on it, with Kane County’s Tax ID and Canyon Land as the payer. In 2012 and 2013, there was a W-2 turned in for the same commissioner from Kane County with the County’s Tax ID and the county’s name. Kane County received a letter from the IRS notifying them that a W-2 and a 1099 were reported for the same person. An employer cannot issue a W-2 and a 1099 to the same employee–it has to be one or the other. The county did end up paying the taxes on the income the commissioner received from Canyon Land for 2012 and 2013. They have not offered to reimburse the county. The financial records from the time when Canyon Land was using the Kane County’s Tax ID number are county property and should in fact be accessible by the commission and/or budget officer.
The Recreation and Transportation Board is a special service district in the county. Recreation and Transportation was originally set up in 1996 to assist in maintaining and developing transportation and recreation (trails) for the county. The boundaries of the district include all of Kane County and include no funding measures except the option to levy taxes on properties in that district. The board was not very active or almost non-existent until a county commissioner took interest in the district. During that time, it was decided the mineral lease money and PILT (Payment In Lieu of Taxes) money that the county receives annually would be directed to that district to help serve county needs.
The papers forming the district clearly state in Section 3: “The district shall provide transportation and certain limited recreation services within the district through facilities acquired or constructed for that purpose through construction, purchase, lease, contract, gift, condemnation, or any combination thereof.”
On paper this was a great idea. However, the monies that were given to the district are public funds and therefore should be used for the benefit of Kane County and its citizens. I was appalled at the amount of monies that were paid to those involved with this board and at no time was anyone aware of the raise the board gave themselves. The elected clerk/auditor was also the bookkeeper for this board as, and received compensation from this board as well.
Canyon Land is its only taxing district. None of the funds paid out are public funds. It’s not to say that those who are elected and serve in some capacity for the county, that their actions and decisions were not influenced by their involvement with the district and the compensation they received.
Recreation and Transportation is funded with public funds, and this is just my opinion, at no time should they be issuing themselves any compensation at all, nor should the clerk/auditor be paying herself for bookkeeping services for this district. There is also nepotism in both districts still. I would hope those elected to the commission would disband the current board for Recreation and Transportation, and run an ad requesting a new board and bookkeeper. This district is using public funds to operate with. The Kane County Commission Chair or Budget Officer should approve all expenses for this district prior to any checks being written. This could be a temporary solution until a new board is put in place and up and running within the state statutes. I am aware that the county requested financial information from both of these districts and was told they had to fill out a GRAMA request.
I would like to thank all those who serve as elected officials, as it takes time and dedication on their part. The elected officials in question have done some great things for our county and that has left me with mixed emotions. If a district is operating in a completely ethical manner, then they should have no problem being open and transparent.
I am not choosing sides, but simply making it clear that no matter who we elect they understand the importance of not losing focus on their primary job–looking out for the best interest of the county and its citizens. We, as citizens of Kane County, regardless of personal views, politics, and or beliefs, should fight for uplifting our county and we must analyze all that is happening in our county. We hold the key as voting members of the community to rise and let our thoughts and voices be heard. As a community, we should seek those individuals with the right mindset, dedication and ethics to run this county in the direction that is beneficial to the greater population, rather than focusing on personal gains.