The article by Rebecca Palmer in the July 19th edition of the Davis Clipper requires a response that clarifies and corrects some major misstatements.
The article states that the Democratic challenger running for Davis County Commission, Steve Anderson, disagrees with statements by elected officials that county finances are in good order.
Clarification and correction #1: Davis County officials agree with independent sources that have given the county accolades for the county’s financial well being. These sources include our independent CPA Crane, Christensen, Palmer and Ambrose; Moody’s Investment Services; Standard and Poor’s’; Zion’s Bank Public Finance; Government Finance Officers Association and many others. This is verified by our stellar bond ratings and low interest rates on our outstanding bonds.
In the recent presentation of the 2011 Davis County Comprehensive Annual Financial Report at commission meeting on July 10, 2012 Jeff Ambrose, Partner with Crane, Christensen, Palmer & Ambrose praised the County for its financial health and indicated that net assets were increasing in value significantly faster than the county’s minimal debt. This is an indication of strong financial position to financial advisors and rating agencies.
Mr. Ambrose also praised the county for receiving the Certificate of Achievement Award for full disclosure and transparent reporting. This award by the Government Finance Officers Association has only been received by three Counties in Utah, and Davis County received the award for the 18th consecutive year.
Mr. Anderson indicates that additional debt taken on in the last four years has gone to pay for a new county health center and for construction of a new county government building.
Clarification and Correction #2: The health center and senior services buildings in Clearfield and Children’s Justice Center in Farmington were paid for from dollars saved by county departments and accumulated in a capital projects fund until the accumulated funds allowed us to pay cash for the construction of these facilities. The bonds taken out for the administration building and library totaled $19.6 million.
The largest share of bond increase went for flood bonds of $27 million that had been planned to alleviate some severe needs in the flood infrastructure. The work was completed in time to avert some major flood damage. Because some of the critical work eliminated a large area from being considered a flood risk by insurers, over 200 residents will now save approximately $1,000 each per year by eliminating flood insurance.
Because of the timing of the bond issuance we have been able to take advantage of all-time low interest rates and significantly reduced construction costs. In addition, the projects have added numerous jobs to the workforce during times when national unemployment is currently at 8.1 percent and we have helped Davis County to have a comparative unemployment rate of 5.9 percent.
Mr. Anderson states that the increase in debt means an increase of more than $200 for every resident of the county including children.
Clarification and Correction #3: The total debt in 2006 was $48,174,668, or $168 per capita. The current outstanding total debt is $81,844,644 or $267 per capita. That is an increase of $99 per capita – not the amount printed of over $200.
The total debt per capita of Davis County is one of the lowest in the state. State law allows for Davis County general obligation debt to max out at $501 million. Our current general obligation debt is $19.8 million and total debt $81.8 million. Davis County has received numerous praises from independent financial agencies for keeping the debt per capita on the extreme low side.
Since the largest share of debt was for much-needed flood infrastructure not mentioned by Mr. Anderson, the crux of his concern boils down to the approximate $19.6 million bond for the new administration building and headquarters library. If you take out the $4 million dollar library that is to be built with library funds utilizing library debt service included in approved long-range plans, you are really talking about a new administration building bonded for approximately $15.6 million dollars. The bond proceeds received by Davis County for the construction of the administration building and library included one-time significant federal tax credits no longer available.
Our current administration building has had studies conducted warning of needs to seismically upgrade the building at costs and personnel displacements that are staggering. The current building also has electrical, heating, and cooling needs and related costs that would be required to meet the demands of today’s work environment. The team assembled by Davis County as the Budget Committee made up of five elected officials, two department heads and three finance staff made the strong recommendation that the most appropriate and long term, least expensive route to go would be to build a new building with a state-of-the-art geothermal heating and cooling system.
A capital project such as the construction of the new administration building will serve the taxpayers of Davis County for the next 40 to 50 years. Equity in taxation requires that citizens utilizing the facility now and in the future contribute to the cost of the asset. Wise and prudent use of debt and debt service payment allows for this equity to take place. To insist all capital improvements be financed on a cash basis shifts the tax burden of future tax payers to the current tax payer.
Davis County Budget Committee
Steve S. Rawlings, Clerk/Auditor, Mark Altom, Treasurer, Mel Miles, Personnel Director, Mark Langston, I.T. Director, Curtis Koch, Chief Deputy Finance/Audit, Jonathan Lee, Director of Finance, Bret Millburn, Commission Chair, Louenda Downs, Commissioner, John Petroff, Commissioner, Terry Tremea, Chief Deputy Administration