The Park Record editorial, June 20-22, 2012 | ParkRecord.com

The Park Record editorial, June 20-22, 2012

Careless accounting won't fly with overburdened taxpayers

"If you take care of the pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves."

That old Depression-era saying may seem clichéd when we are constantly bombarded with news about deficits of millions and trillions of dollars. But maybe that is the problem.

This week, a spokesperson for the Utah State Office of Education shrugged off a $25 million accounting error as small potatoes, saying the state will probably be able cover it with end-of-the-year carryover funds. A couple of years ago, Summit County found itself in a similar situation and borrowed $1.6 million from its rainy-day fund to plug a deficit.

That is the same kind of thinking borrowing from tomorrow to pay for today that triggered a massive recession in 2008 and is still crippling economies around the globe and here at home.

Summit County taxpayers were justifiably angry about the loose accounting that led to raiding the reserve fund in 2009, but they still gave officials a break by retroactively OKing the maneuver through a special ballot proposition. And it is unlikely that state legislators will choose to withhold the $25 million needed to shore up the USOE’s budget for the coming school year.

At some point, though, citizens should demand a higher standard of fiscal accountability at all levels of government. Hopefully that scrutiny will come before, not after, their budgets are adopted.

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Unfortunately, budget hearings probably aren’t on anyone’s Top-10 list of summertime entertainment activities. Park City Municipal is currently crafting its budget for the coming year and the public has been noticeably absent from the public hearings, even though there has been talk about a sales-tax hike.

The Park City School District may also be asking voters for a tax increase in the near future. While state education bureaucrats apparently consider a million bucks to be spare change, locally that translates into teacher salaries and vital school programs. However, if taxpayers perceive their hard-earned money is being spent carelessly, they may be reluctant to approve a tax increase.

These days, when budgets are tight, it is especially important that those entrusted with the responsibility for making the most of every tax dollar keep a close eye on the pennies. If they do, the millions will take care of themselves.