Park Record 2018 Voter Guide: Summit County Auditor
October 17, 2018
With Election Day approaching, and mail-in ballots on their way to residents, The Park Record asked candidates to answer a series of questions in their own words in order to help voters make informed decisions. View the answers of candidates in other races here.
What are your qualifications to serve as Summit County auditor and why are you seeking another term?
Michael Howard (Incumbent Democrat, unopposed): I hold an MBA from BYU and am currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Public Administration (MPA) from the University of Utah – graduating spring 2019. My MBA, coupled with experience in the private sector, provided much of the needed expertise to navigate, understand, and act upon County financial processes. I chose to pursue an MPA to better understand the unique processes and delivery methods used to provide public goods to the citizens of our great County. I have also learned much from our wonderful County staff who have helped me gain a greater understanding of the complexities of providing the goods and services we enjoy. Given this knowledge base and gained expertise, I feel that I am qualified to serve as the County Auditor and thus able to examine, research, opine and contribute to the financial decisions being made by our Council, Elected Officials, County Manager and Department Heads. I am seeking another term to continue this journey and serve as a voice to help ensure the County spends tax dollars in appropriate ways along with reviewing and implementing controls and policies to help ensure transparency, discourage fraud and eliminate waste.
What, if any, changes have you made within the auditor's office since your election in 2014? Do you plan on making any changes during your next term?
Howard: During my first term, we have successfully implemented a new purchasing card system along with a cash back rebate based on the total amount of purchases made on the cards. We have worked closely with the State Tax Commission to minimize and eliminate difference between their records and the County's resulting in more accurate and efficient Certified Tax Rate calculations. We have enhanced our financial policies and processes to address the ever present attempts from nefarious individuals/organizations seeking to defraud the County of financial resources. We have created tools to give County leadership the ability to monitor their respective YTD budget expenditures with resultant cost containment and proper accounting. During my next term, one of our first projects will be implementing a new cloud based payroll/human resource system to modernize both policies and processes.
Are you satisfied with the duties that are entrusted to the auditor? Should the auditor be more involved in managing the county's multi-million dollar budget? Why or why not?
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Howard: I am currently satisfied with the duties entrusted to the office – they are myriad. Much of what we do is defined by Utah State Statute and enables us to serve as an "independent" check on the financial governance of the County. The County's current system of government vests the County Manager with the authority to authorize expenditures within the Council adopted budget policy document. The Auditor's involvement is one of helping formulate a proposed budget policy document through the County's budget committee, monitoring department expenditures to help ensure budget compliance, accounting for the County's financial transactions and making recommendations to department heads, the County Manager and County Council. I feel that this level of involvement is appropriate and falls well within statutory authority.
The auditor essentially still serves as the budgetary watchdog of the county, maintaining a close eye on the county's expenditures. How have you done this? What improvements could be made in this area to ensure cost-saving measures are being utilized?
Howard: One of the improvements we have made in the Auditor's office is the creation of tools to allow our Department Heads and Elected Officials the ability to monitor, in real time, their current YTD Expenditures to Budget. This tool has helped us to better manage our resources in the respective line item areas in each budget. We have witnessed, on several occasions that when the final expenses are tallied for a given budget year that many of our Department Heads and Elected Officials have strived to keep their budgets under allowed levels. Our new purchasing card program also allows us to help offset the cost of some of our purchases by receiving rebates on our spend amounts. These examples are part of our desire to obtain maximum value for the taxpayer dollars the County spends.
According to the Summit County Clerk's Office, ballots for the Nov. 6 election are set to begin arriving by mail on Friday, Oct. 19. Ballots returned through the mail must be postmarked by Nov. 5. Residents can register to vote online or at the Clerk's Office through Oct. 30. Same-day registration will also be available at four voting assistance centers throughout the county on Election Day. Visit http://co.summit.ut.us/281/Voter-Registration-Elections for more information.