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July 18, 2013
Deseret Peak owes $6.5M to 10 depts.

While explaining Tooele County’s financial recovery plan in May, Treasurer Jeremy Walker described “a perfect financial storm” that resulted in over 100 worker layoffs and the elimination of several departments to reduce the county budget.

Part of the turbulence of that storm is the accumulation of $6.5 million the county commissioners pulled over the years from other county funds and departments to subsidize Deseret Peak Complex.

The county’s audited financial statements for 2012 presented to the commission Tuesday night reveal which funds were tapped to keep Deseret Peak afloat.

The fund owed the most money by Deseret Peak is the solid waste management fund, which shows $1.4 million receivable from Deseret Peak.

Next, Deseret Peak owes capital projects and the intergovernmental service equipment funds $1 million each.

The remaining loan transfers came from general, public health, road maintenance, municipal services, transient room tax, debt service, and jail capital project funds.

The proposed 66 percent tax increase in the county’s portion of property taxes is designed to raise $2.6 million in additional property tax that will be used to pay back the funds borrowed for Deseret Peak.

“The commissioners’ intention is to use $1 million to $2 million a year to pay back the funds that are owed by Deseret Peak,” said Tooele County Auditor Mike Jensen.

Deseret Peak Complex, which opened in 1999 and features recreational facilities and two museums, was never designed to break even, according to Jerry Hurst, who was elected to the county commission in 2006.

Since 1999, subsidies for Deseret Peak have ranged from over $3 million in 2006, the year the county paid for extensive repairs to the pool at the Deseret Peak, to $950,000 in 2007.

In 2012, the Deseret Peak Complex subsidy was $1.8 million.

The county’s general fund balance — the accumulated difference between revenue and expenses — was built up by mitigation fees from EnergySolutions, Deseret Chemical Depot, Clean Harbors, and Allied Waste, and was initially used to cover Deseret Peak’s losses.

The county’s general fund decreased as its stockpile of mitigation fees was tapped by commissioners to pay for capital improvement projects that included $1 million to build Silver Avenue in Stockton and Club House Drive in Stansbury Park; $1.2 million to help build a new building for Utah State University; $2.5 million for the Emergency Operations Center that included a new county dispatch facility; and $3.7 million for an addition to the Tooele County Health Department Building.

In 2009, county revenue, including mitigation fees, declined and the county commissioners turned to transferring funds internally from other funds to cover Deseret Peak subsidies.

The transfers are legal, but intended to be temporary and were noted each year in the county’s financial statements, according to Jensen.

The county’s financial recovery plan calls for the funds used for Desert Peak to be paid back with transfers from the general fund balance at the end of each year starting in 2013.

Repayment will begin with the road fund, followed by the transient room tax fund, public health fund, municipal services fund, capital projects fund, jail capital projects fund, general fund, intergovernmental equipment fund, and solid waste fund.

“If we follow the financial recovery plan, including the tax increase, the funds will eventually be paid back in 3 to 5 years,” said Jensen.

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