November 4, 2009
The Utah Taxpayers Association claims Lehi erred when it transferred utility fund money to balance the city budget without providing adequate public notice.
M. Royce Van Tassell, the UTA’s vice president, wrote in a letter to Lehi and resident Gordon Miner, who first raised the issue, that state law requires a notice be sent to residents when an amendment is made to a tentative budget.
The issue centered on whether the budget was tentative or not at the time.
In June, the city transferred $4.25 million from its utility funds to cover city expenses in the 2008-2009 budget. Miner said at the time of the notification the city did not fully explain how much money was involved and where the transfers were occurring.
“No city should be able to skirt these disclosure and notification requirements simply by making the transfers while amending the tentative budget,” Van Tassell wrote.
But City Administrator Jamie Davidson said the city didn’t skirt the law. He said the city provided the notice that was required, but stressed it wasn’t a tentative budget, as Miner and Van Tassell claimed.
“This was … an adjustment at the end of the fiscal year,” Davidson said. He said the budget in question was adopted almost a year before, and therefore was not tentative. He said the association was citing the law incorrectly.
However, Van Tassell said that is not the case. He said the budget is always considered tentative until the fiscal year ends, and any adjustment requires detailed public notification.
Richard Moon, local government manager for the Utah State Auditor’s Office, said that anytime a budget is amended, it becomes a tentative spending package again, and the public needs to be notified so taxpayers can comment on it.
In a letter to Miner, Van Tassell and Lehi officials, State Auditor Austin Johnson said interpreting the definition of “tentative budget” too narrowly violates the intent of the law “and the entire fabric of the statutory budget process.”
Van Tassell said Lehi is not alone in this, as other cities do so as well. He said the association will work with the Legislature to remove any possible ambiguity.
Miner declined to comment for this story.