Pipeline reassessment leads to loss of county revenue
After a pipeline company successfully asked for a re-evaluation of their property tax valuation, Morgan County and Morgan School District are among entities that not only have to pay the pipeline back, but also have to do without a large chunk of tax revenue in the future.
In all, SLC Pipeline is owed $502,000 from all Morgan County taxing agencies combined. Of that, the county owes the pipeline $189,938 by Dec. 15, said Morgan County Treasurer Bonnie B. Thomson. That is just for the 2017 tax year.
But taxing entities have already set their budgets for 2018 based on historical tax revenue, before the pipeline reassessment was approved. That means that for the 2018 tax year, all Morgan County taxing entities combined will be $244,000 short of what they budgeted for due to the pipeline’s reassessment.
Thomson said this is the county’s largest centrally assessed property tax reimbursement ever, and that SLC Pipeline is one of the county’s largest property tax payers. The pipeline is valued at over $64 million. Before this reimbursement, a Union Pacific reimbursement was a large one the county had to deal with.
“My concern going forward is centrally assessed is a major portion of the taxes we collect, but over time it is going down more and more,” said Morgan County Councilwoman Tina Cannon. “These large entities who pay the centrally assessed taxes have the ability to hire tax attorneys, and they tend to win.”
Morgan County is attempting to even the playing field by cooperating with other counties that belong to the Utah Association of Counties to “fight as a group of counties,” Cannon said. “For Morgan, that is the best way to defend this going forward.”
At their Nov. 7 meeting the Morgan County Council unanimously approved the Morgan County 2017 Board of Equalization record of final decision and authorization.
County wants electronic paper storage
In order to save space, county employees want to cut out the amount of paper documents they are storing and move to paperless storage and retention of county documents.
“We are running out of space,” Morgan County Council Secretary Tauna MacPherson said. “We are not sure what to do.”
MacPherson and County Clerk Stacy Netz Clark would like to store Morgan County Council meeting minutes and council packets, and payroll records electronically, but say they need an official county ordinance to do so.
MacPherson said county IT staff ensure that the technology to do so is already in place. Delaying electronic storage leads to a waste of paper, MacPherson said. Converting old paper files to a digital format is another issue, and MacPherson said she wants the county to focus first on future electronic records. She suggested Jan. 1, 2018 would be a good time to start.
County Councilman John Barber said he would like to have his concerns of security and access addressed.
County Attorney Jann Farris and Director of Information Systems Jeremy Archibald will join MacPherson and Clark in bringing forward a proposal before the end of the year.
Council members can enroll in county insurance
Following a Nov. 7 vote, members of the Morgan County Council can now enroll in county employee insurance plans, although they will have to pay for the entire premium.
After consulting with Utah Association of Counties representatives, Morgan Councilman John Barber said it would be appropriate to offer council members benefits.
“It is kind of like the Cobra program. Councilmembers would have to pay both the county portion and their own portion,” Morgan County Attorney Jann Farris said. “It may make a difference in rates because it would expand the pool.”
Council Chairman Ned Mecham voted against offering benefits, saying “I have a hard time voting on something for me.” Mecham also noted that councilmembers technically are supposed to work part-time, and yet other part-time county employees are not eligible for county employee insurance plans.