Utah County commissioners vote to assume all budgeting power despite Lt. Gov’s criticism
PROVO, Utah— Utah’s two county commissioners have voted to move all authority for the county’s budget process under their tent.
Bill Lee and Tom Sakievich voted unanimously Wednesday afternoon to approve the move which was previously blasted by Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson as “nuts.”
At issue, the commissioners say, is a 2019 property tax increase they want to roll back. They told 2News they haven’t received critical budget information from the county clerk/auditor’s office to do that, and that’s why they want to move the county’s budget officer and related responsibilities under their stewardship.
Currently, the clerk/auditor’s office oversees the budget preparation and sends it to the commissioners for a vote.
“If everything was going along just fine, this conversation wouldn’t be happening,” said Lee. “We’re not getting the information that we want, the information that we’ve asked for, as the executives of the county.”
But Utah County Clerk/Auditor Amelia Powers-Gardner disputed claims that her office has been unresponsive. She shared with 2News a memo written March 26 to the commissioners in which her office said they are “committed to provide accurate financial information and analysis in support of your financial leadership of the County.”
“We’ve reached out multiple times,” Powers-Gardner said in an interview with 2News. “We have email proof that we have reached out multiple times with no response.”
Powers-Gardner said this amounts to a consolidation of power into too few hands.
“The commissioners making this move will have the ability to build the budget, vote on the budget, and execute the budget with no oversight at all,” Powers-Gardner said, echoing the sentiments tweeted Tuesday by Henderson, who is a Utah County resident.
Powers-Gardner is currently running for the vacant seat on the Utah County Commission and could stand to benefit from the change if she wins. But she said it’s not about that.
My objection to this is not a power grab,” she said. “My objection to this is that it’s good governance.”
Utah law provides for the county budget officer to be designated by the county commission, which Lee and Sakievich used as justification for their move.
“This budget process rightly belongs to the county commission,” Sakievich said.
Powers-Gardner doesn’t dispute that.
“It is a commission power, absolutely,” she said. “There is a difference between something that’s legal and something that’s right.”
Both Lee and Sakievich said they are committed to rolling back the property tax increase in Utah County. A public hearing on that is set for April 21.