Letter to the Editor: Call to Carbon County to Dissolve Municipal Service Fund


* This is the presentation from Cheryl Lupo at the public hearing on the current unincorporated area’s municipal service fund in Carbon County. 

I am here tonight to bring information from the research that I have done. Please take this information that I am presenting in the spirit that it is intended.

Before I begin with my findings I have a couple of requests. 1. A Service/cost analysis needs to be done immediately before any decision are made on the 2020 budget and mailed to every citizen in the county. 2. By my findings, I am requesting that the Municipal Service Fund be dissolved because it is being used to subsidized departments.

The following information comes from the 2018 financial statement and can be retrieved from the Counties web page under 2018 audit financial:

  • Municipal Service fund had an ending balance of $5.9 million, page 19
  • Charges for services increased by $3.1 million primarily from an increase in royalty revenue from selling additional coal.  Page 7
  • The decrease of $6.2 million in expenses is attributed primarily to a decrease in public health of $5 million (from removing the Southeastern Utah Health Department as a component unit)…….  Page 7
  • Total $14 million
  • The balance of $10.4 million is unrestricted, which denotes that this amount may be used to meet general, ongoing financial obligations.  Page 6

I would also like to have answers as to where this money is and/or went to. I know that you cannot answer now, but in the near future, and mailed out to all citizens in the county not just unincorporated areas. These numbers affect everyone in the County.

On to the findings:

First item is A” performance Audit of Counties ‘Municipal Services – Utah”

This audit was performed by the “Office of the Legislative Auditor General, State of Utah in 2010. There were 10 counties that were part of the audit and Carbon County was one of the counties. Objective of the audit was to determine whether county “general fund” dollars are being used to support or provide municipal services. The report states that, “There has been some concern that counties and cities may be in appropriately subsidizing municipal-type services. The purpose of requiring counties to maintain an MSF is to ensure that residents in both the unincorporated county area and incorporated cities are paying for the services they receive.”

The MSF fund is not there to subsidize the sheriff’s department, search and rescue, range fires, animal control, streetlights, and predator control.

From page ii of the Performance audit;
This is a direct statement from the Performance Audit – “Rural County Municipal Services are provided from the general fund.  Because there are no statutory restrictions on the provision of municipal services by fourth-class through sixth-class counties, rural counties are not in violation of Utah Code 17-36-9(2)(a) which requires an MSF of first-class through third class counties.  Most fourth-class through sixth-class counties sampled pay for municipal services to their counties from their general funds.”

Carbon County is a class-four county based on the population in the county and has chosen to have a Municipal Service Fund, but by code 17-36-9(2)(a) it is not necessary to have a MSF.

From page 2 of the Performance Audit
“Fourth-class through sixth-class counties, or rural counties, are not required to have specific funds separating the services funding; however, they continue to provide some municipal-type services to county residents.  The rural counties generally pay for their services from their general fund.”  Also, “Although rural counties are not required to separate their funding from their general funds, Utah code 17-34-1 obligates all counties to try to match their funding and services as much as possible without an MSF.  Again, there is no need for Carbon County to have a MSF.

From page 17 of the Performance Audit
“Compounding these complexities is the PILT money received by counties.  This money is intended for use in unincorporated county areas, and because it goes into county “general funds”, it may also be used for some incorporated cities public safety.”  Looking at the 2020 tentative budget, PILT money is not showing as revenue in the MSF, but it does show in the General Fund coming in as revenue at $1,323,000.  What is this money going to be spent on if it is not going into the MSF?

From page 11 of the Performance Audit
“We recommend that all counties perform periodic service/cost analyses in order to determine that the services being received by citizens are the ones they are paying for.”  I am asking the commissioners to do this service/cost analyses based on the information from the performance audit and distribute out to all the citizens of the County by mail, because not everyone has a computer.

On to the Utah code that oversees how accounting, budgeting etc, is determined.  The State of Utah writes the laws for Counties and Utah code 17-36-1, Uniform Fiscal Procedures Act for Counties and the Purpose is to establish uniform accounting, budgeting, and financial reporting procedures for all counties…..

To find on the Internet to see the whole document, type in “Utah code 17-36-1”or “Uniform Fiscal Procedures Act for Counties.

Also, there is the Utah code 17-34- Counties may provide municipal services …….

17-34-2(b) fund those services, this explains the 3 different ways to collect money for MSF

  1. Levying a tax, which is what we are doing now.
  2. Charging a service charge or fee to persons benefitting from the municipal-type services
  3. Providing funds to a municipal services district in accordance with section 17B-2a-1109

In the performance audit a county did the cost analysis on a 1-hour call from the sheriff’s department and came up with $45/hour.  This certainly can be done for Carbon County.

The following are all the line items that the unincorporated area is facing to pay if this budget goes through:

Planning & zoning – $108,700

Sheriff – $2,227,000, I would like to see how the unincorporated area spent $2.2 million on the Sheriff’s department.  I would like to see the call out sheet for the whole year.  That is a lot of $45/hour that was mentioned in the Performance audit.  I also believe that if everyone in the county votes for the sheriff, then everyone should pay for the sheriff.  The Sheriffs department is for  all the county to use, not just the unincorporated area.  This should not be in the MSF, it needs to go back to the general fund.

County Unincorporated Contracts – $839, 500

On this line item it shows “city police” and “animal control” and “city fire department.  Animal control is another line item and so is police (as sheriff) and so is Fire (as range fire), this is looking like double taxing

Range Fire Department – $120,850, shouldn’t the DWR take care of this, why is only the unincorporated paying this, the whole county should.  Also, this does not show on the definition of the MSF under code 17-34-1(1)(c) and 17-36-3(23)

Search & Rescue – 59,000, this is used by all in the county, why is only the unincorporated paying for this service.  This should be under the general fund if the monies are a wash.

Building inspection – $146,100

Public Lands – $22,400

Predator Control – $14,000

Animal Control – $178,000

Street Lightening – $30,000, in the unincorporated areas, doing a service/cost analysis on this item needs to be done

Highway Class B round – $1,712,000

Highway – $1,423,500

Grand total – $6,881,650

My findings show that some of the departments in the MSF are being subsidized by the MSF. The municipal service fund was start in 1971 by the State of Utah just to show monies going in and monies going out, not to subsidized departments for the County. The MSF needs to be dissolved because it is not being used correctly and the unincorporated areas are taking the hit so that departments can be funded at a high dollar.

2018 Police expense:
Helper            $635,474.87
Price               $1,990,260.36
Wellington     $253,279.58
East Carbon   $498,031.72

Fire Expense:
Helper            $107,274.93
Price:              $527,823.80
Wellington     $73,474.35
East Carbon   $41,586.53

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