Guest Editorial |

Guest Editorial

Gary Oliverson, Wasatch County taxpayer

On December 1 a public hearing was held to announce the successful protest of the Jordanelle Special Service District which eliminated the double taxation for fire service to the owners in the Jordanelle Special Service Area. This was followed by the public hearing for the proposed budget for the 2012 Fire District. If you weren’t there you missed some interesting information.

The assistant chief presented a proposed budget of which he "didn’t know if there was sufficient money to fund the budget," but the proposed budget was "balanced." It would seem it doesn’t matter how much money is being collected as long as the numbers balance on a piece of paper. The assistant chief also stated that there are 15 fulltime fire personnel and 21 part-time personnel for a total of 36. When it was pointed out that the line item for salaries and wages on the proposed budget exceeded the salaries of the full time and part-time fire personnel, the fire chief corrected the number to 45 fire personnel.

The fire chief confirmed that the part-time firefighters are compensated $700 per month. This equals $8,400 annually per part-time fire fighter. If you multiply that by 30 part-time firefighters you have a total of $252,000. If you subtract the $252,000 for 30 part-time firefighters from the wages and salaries line item in the proposed budget, you have $774,000 budgeted for the remaining 15 personnel made up of the administration and fulltime firefighters. When you total the published salaries of the fulltime fire personnel you have $702,888. Subtracting this figure from the $774,000 leaves $71,112 unaccounted for in the salaries and wages line item in the proposed fire budget.

Another line item in the proposed fire budget is $16,000 for directors. The Wasatch County Council confirmed that they are the directors being paid this $16,000 in addition to their council salaries. One council member made the comment that he has been involved in the fire budget process for many years and nobody ever made an issue about the previous budgets and he didn’t understand why there were concerns with the 2012 proposed budget.

I have only pointed out two line items of the 33 line item expenditures in the proposed budget. The two line items have some glaring discrepancies that need to be addressed. When you factor in the fact that the assistant fire chief is claiming nine less fire personnel than the fire chief is claiming, it gives me concern about the other 31 line items in the proposed budget. Do we need all these firefighters? Do we need fulltime firefighters? Why is there no public representation on the Fire Board by taxpayers who are not conflicted by having relatives working as firefighters?

There are only two weeks before the fire budget is adopted. This will occur on December 21 at 6:00 p.m. in the Wasatch County Council chambers. I believe it would be well worth a specific description of each line item before the budget is adopted. We ask our elected officials to be accountable for their actions while serving the public. Just because no one has questioned their actions in the past does not alleviate their duty to be accountable now. As the proposed Fire District budget affects every property owner in Wasatch County, please join me and the other property owners who want an accurate accounting and justification for the taxes we pay.