Editor: I am a veteran. My father was in the 2nd Division during World War I and is interred at Arlington National Cemetery. My brother is a veteran. I met my wife of 45 years while on active duty, her father being on active duty at the time. While on active duty I felt I was fairly compensated with some benefits that aren’t readily available to civilians. I gained valuable life skills during my service.
I bought my first home with a GI loan with nothing down. I bought another home taking advantage of the GI bill. In between, I attended graduate school with reimbursements from the VA.
I was born in Washington, DC and over the years, spent many years working in the area having lived in Arlington, Bethesda and the District of Columbia itself. I have visited the major memorials on the Mall and would note that these memorials are on a public park like Memorial Hill nearby.
In short, I don’t feel that Heber City or the government in general owes me more than they have already given me. I don’t live in Heber City so at one level, if they want to spend taxpayer money on hangars, hanging baskets and leather jackets with matching dunce caps, why should I care? Well, ultimately this spending will translate into higher taxes on business resulting in higher prices or perhaps a business I patronize deciding that it just isn’t worth it to kept he doors open.
I am proud of my service and thankful for the respect the nation has already shown me for it. But, some veteran’s may be in need of financial support such as a job. I’d rather see discretionary funds be directed at that need.
June 13 – Time to Take a Stand
Editor: Last year, the citizens of this county spoke up, filed and signed a petition, just to have it trampled by our County Manager and County Council. What was set in motion was the formation of a committee who would investigate the idea of changing the form of government to one where the manager would be responsible to the citizens via the ballot box. Interesting enough, the committee was formed, but under the direction of Mr. Davis, and the first meetings were directed by him!
The study committee was asked to look into the pros and cons of changing the form of government. I extend an extreme thanks to the committee members– they are working hard! Unfortunately, their efforts, I believe, are in vain. No matter what the committee decides, the ultimate decision is to be made by the County Council – the same council who already voted to obstruct the rights of the citizens and keep things the way they are. If the council votes against the committee recommendation, then the only option for the citizens at that point is to have the original petitioner put the same question on the ballot box for the voters to decide (i.e. Mr. Davis). Do you honestly think that Mike Davis would do that? That is why Mr. Davis decided to obstruct the citizen’s rights in their petition efforts last year. Now he controls the entire outcome and the voters have no say. He has effectively denied the citizens their very legal rights.
This Thursday is your chance to be heard. You must stand up, speak up, and let the County know how displeased you are with the current form of government corruption. Until the citizens take a stand, corruption will continue to escalate and your rights will continue to erode. You see it nationally, and now locally. It is time for the citizens to take back the control of the government. Government works FOR the people, not the other way around. I am not willing to stand aside. Please go to the meeting at the Senior Center on Thursday at 7 p.m. and share your concerns.
Doug Murdock, MD
Editor: A little over a year ago, the Wasatch School District was having trouble publishing the annual budget in a timely fashion. Upon repeated requests a budget was finally provided to the requesting taxpayers. This document showed a little more information than past budget and indicated there was a substantial excess reserve in the maintenance and operating fund.
According to Utah Code and the SAO Audit Guide (GC-18) “There is no limitation on school district fund balances except for amounts designated to meet unexpected and unspecified contingencies. Such undistributed reserves” may not exceed 5% of the maintenance and operations budget. (53A-19-103(1))”
Because of the delay in providing the budget, the board 'approved' and set a second hearing for public input. Noting that excess funds were being kept for a “rainy day,” taxpayers requested a return of the overtaxed money, in the form of a property tax reduction. While taxpayers were allowed minimal time to present the case, the request was soundly refused by the Board with an extended discussion that they needed the money, and it was proper.
The Business administrator also presented a previously unseen data sheet showing that 'only' 2.5% of the general fund reserve was “undistributed” and 13% was “unassigned,” a distinction without a difference. So they declared no tax reduction was possible. This 'reserve' was modified in the next report to 5% “undistributed” and 7% “unassigned,” for unknown reasons.
The taxpayers formally, by letter, requested a further discussion, on this issue, at the next meeting which was summarily dismissed, and taxpayers were denied the right to publicly discuss the item.
Fast forward to 2013, a retreat was held at Daniel Summit to work on the upcoming budget and , as an added agenda item, to hear: “Discussion of different ways for public to provide input at board meetings.”
At that meeting they elatedly announced, to themselves, that revenues for next year would increase by $1.5 million, and they would have to find ways handle it. Additionally, when the budget was finally published a surplus of $1 million was shown for the current year (the one taxpayers were denied a tax reduction); so there would effectively be an extra $2.5 million for 2013/14. Not surprisingly, they were able to find ways to spend it and were able to create a budget showing expenditures of $56,576,893 an increase of $2.5 million over FY 2013, and an increase in spending of 6.6% in one year.
Since the 49% tax increase at the last “Truth”in Taxation hearing in 2007, there has been little truth, but a lot of taxation. In just three years, from 2011/12 to 2013/14, WSC total salaries have increased by 12.4% and accompanying benefits have increased by 31.9% . In 2011, total benefits were shown as 50% additional to salaries, by 2014 that figure will increase to 58.7%. One wonders how the average taxpayer has done relative to these increases.
The School Budget Hearing, on June 18, may be your only chance to voice your opinion, as it appears they did not resolve the issue of how to find ways for more public input. Emails seem to fall into the great NSA collection scheme, as they are not answered.
The Time is Now for Comment on Canal Reconstruction
Editor: Due to recent canal failures in Utah, the Federal Government proposes to revamp Wasatch County’s earthen canals by lining them with concrete structures.
This project will take many years to complete but, when finished, will prove devastating to wildlife, that live along the entire Coyote Ridge.
The Timp Canal above the Valley Hills is already in concrete. It measures 10 feet wide with vertical sides 5 feet tall. With no bridges or escape ramps planned, these structures are virtual moats. When complete, animals will be unable to gain access water or food below. This will render thousands of acres of critical habitat useless.
One Wasatch View resident has rescued three fawns, removed three other dead fawns. This small section represents only 10 % of the total 17 mile proposed project.
There is also a sensitive riparian area that lies within the scope of the project. It runs for a mile just north of SR 32 (the Kamas road) along Old Highway 40 towards the Jordanelle Dam. This stretch of stream sits in the bottom of the valley and poses no threat of flooding. Yet it is slated for eventual piping or concrete.
This most northern reach of the Wasatch Canal was acquired by the Utah Reclamation Mitigation Commission specifically for riparian habitat and fisherman access as part of the recent Provo River Restoration Project. Millions of taxpayer dollars were spent for this purpose. If this area were piped or concrete, Wasatch County residents and visitors will lose an important opportunity to preserve fishing, hiking, and wildlife viewing opportunities. As a taxpayer it is disturbing to think that we paid millions to preserve this habitat only to use more taxpayers’ money for a project which is in direct contradiction and will eliminate that purpose less than a decade later.
Water currently leaking from earthen canals into our water table and used by our trees will be “saved” for the people of the lower valleys to provide more water for further development. If you own a well or spring in Heber Valley you might want to ask these important questions. Will my spring be diminished or dry up when the water table is lowered? Will I have to drill a deeper well? These are important questions that deserve answers. However, these answers might never come if the local citizens fail to comment this week.
I am not opposing this project, but I am hoping that the Federal Government will listen to the people to mitigate and minimize the negative impacts to our water table, wildlife and riparian habitat.
Without your comments from our local concerned citizens, there will be a statement and finding of no significant impact.
The time is now. Join me and others in our efforts to persuade the federal decision makers to do a thorough environmental study, and consider alternatives that minimize the negative effects to our water table, wildlife and riparian habitat.
For more information and a link to record your comment please go to: saveastream.blogspot.com.
Wasatch School District Not Transparent
Editor: The Wasatch School District is the recipient of the vast majority of the property taxes paid by the taxpayers of Wasatch County. As part of our role to bring transparency to taxpayers of the operations and the spending of Wasatch County governmental entities, the Wasatch Taxpayers Association made a GRAMA request to obtain for publication and comment a full, unabridged budget of the Wasatch School District prior to its 2014 budget public hearing on June 18, 2013. We have been denied a copy of the budget by business administrator, Keith Johansen, which denial has been confirmed by Superintendent Terry Shoemaker. We have never heard of a full budget from any Utah public entity ever being denied to the public when formally requested under GRAMA.
Their argument against releasing the full budget to us is that the school district posted a limited one on its website as required by state law. The very limited budget is vague, impossible to analyze, and fails to give taxpayers enough information to make informed comment at the public hearing, plus it’s not what we asked for. Last year the Wasatch School District violated state code and did not release the budget to the public 10 days prior to the public hearing, and voted to pass the budget anyway even though WTPA formally protested the adoption of the budget prior to the hearing due to the code violation. We believe the citizens of Wasatch County have the right to see the complete line item budget.
Your school board is fully aware of this decision by the administrators that work for them, but as of the deadline of this letter to the editor we have yet to hear a reversal of this decision to deny. The school board did have a meeting April 24th at Daniels Summit (we have the recording on our website) to discuss the budget and how to get the public more involved. A great way to start is by releasing the proposed 2014 $56.5 million budget, in its entirety, to the WTPA now so we may post it on our website for all taxpayers to review.
Our question to the school board is do you support full transparency of the Wasatch School District, or are you hiding something from Wasatch County taxpayers? The school board also refused to allow us on last year’s September school board agenda to discuss the 2013 budget, and may be ignoring state law on excessive reserves, referenced in our white paper found on our website, which results in higher taxes for all of us. Your board members are President - Blaik Baird, firstname.lastname@example.org, 801 735-4945, Vice Pres. - Debbie Jones, email@example.com, 435 654-1664, Ann Horner, firstname.lastname@example.org, 435 654-1804, Shad Sorenson, email@example.com, 435 657-9492, and Mark Davis, firstname.lastname@example.org, 801-822-4726. If you support our efforts, please write or call them to demand they release a full budget to us immediately so we have time to analyze and share. Please let the WTPA know if you get a response before the budget hearing on June 18, 2013. Please email, or copy us on your original email to the board, at email@example.com
The board of the Wasatch Taxpayers Association includes Dennis Jensen, Gary Oliverson, Anissa Wardell, Chuck Zuercher, Neil Anderton, Ted Browne- vice chair and Tracy Taylor- chair. We volunteer our time along with our members because we believe the taxpayers of Wasatch County have the right to see how much, and where, their hard earned tax dollars are spent. Please go to our website for more info on this issue, as well as others, that affect the taxpayers of Wasatch County, and join our efforts too, at www.wasatchtaxpayersassociaton.com.
The Largest Memorial to All Veterans in County
Editor: Regarding building a new, beautiful, true and outlandishly expensive memorial to our veterans...
I so agree with the Letter to the Wave Editor from the soldier and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. People... look past your nose or take a short ride to the highest memorial overlooking the entire valley and the huge effort of the local people who built it. The tireless work by Dr. Raymond Green, Mr. Baldsteadt, Alvah Kohler and his wife, and so many more I wish to applaud.
Please do not throw a shadow over those that volunteered their many hours of time and hard work and those that are continuing to do so. You know who you are.
Well, I don’t suppose you can, unless you get a huge bulldozer to bring it down to your level.
Our beautiful Memorial Hill for all to see, and our American Flag, long may it wave. Open your hearts and shut your purses, unless you can feed $300,000 for hungry children or pay for books for their schools. Then get off your duff and go see the real memorial, you know... the hill. Complete with names, dates and places honored for their sacrifices.