Friday, August 31, 2012

Orem referendum to put property tax increase on the ballot going forward. Deadline September 28.

Orem referendum moving forward after application approved

AUGUST 30, 2012 12:17 AM  •  
OREM -- After a week of discussion, Orem city officials have given the go-ahead to the citizens behind a referendum to vote on the tax increase.
The applicants' next task is getting a minimum of 3,129 registered voters to sign the petition by the end of September. If they get enough, the recent property tax increase will be on hold for two budget cycles, even though the referendum will not be up for vote until 2013.
There was an issue about whether the application could be accepted because addresses were left off. All were verified as registered voters in Orem. Applicant Wayne Burr later brought the addresses in, but it was past the deadline and they were not accepted by the city recorder's office.
Mark Thomas, director of elections in the Lt. Governor's office, said Orem officials had asked if the application could be accepted as is.
"The election official looks for substantial compliance, not exact compliance," Thomas said. "In my mind they were in substantial compliance."
Mayor Jim Evans concurred with Thomas's statement.
"We didn't see any problem with them not having addresses on the application," Evans said.
The city council passed the $1.7 million tax increase earlier this month. That was half of the tax increase ($3.3 million) built into the original budget; after an hours-long truth in taxation hearing the council cut it back but did not feel the city could reduce its budget by $3.3 million without decreasing services. Most of the tax increase was slated for the city's bond payment for UTOPIA, a fiber-optic system that is a conglomerate of a number of Utah cities.
The referendum puts the tax increase to a popular vote. State law requires that a contested tax increase be put on hold until it can be voted on, which will be 2013. That means the tax increase may not go into effect for two years if residents get the requisite signatures.
"Some people thought it was a lost cause, but I'm starting to feel fine about it," Burr said. "Most people don't want their taxes raised."
City manager Bruce Chesnut said if the increase doesn't happen, department heads will now have to cut more from the city's budget, and that has city administration deeply concerned.
"If they get the required signatures based on the last presidential election and the county verifies them, then it goes to a special election or on the next municipal election next November," he said. "It would put everything on hold for two budget cycles."
The cost of a special election is approximately $35,000, so the city will most likely opt to have the election in November 2013.
Chesnut also noted that he would try to find an additional $3.3 million in the general fund.
"It would affect police, fire, parks, streets, library and other services," he said.
"We think they can find more places to cut without hurting the police and fire. There are plenty other places," Burr said.
People who would like to carry petitions can call Burr at (801) 224-6992. Their deadline is Sept. 28. Genelle Pugmire

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tax burden for most folks. David E. White, Orem. Letter to the Editor. Daily Herald.

Recent concerns by the citizenry of Utah County over the cost of programs they are asked to pay for, most recently -- UTOPIA -- in Orem, have precipitated my response. Depending on the program, those who live and shop within a city are the ones who pay (fully or partially) the costs of the programs the city provides. Even those restricted to the most humble of budgets pay a share of programs they may never use. Regardless of the number of citizens who embrace a new program, there will almost always be an increase in the tax burden to those citizens who do not utilize the program. 
The question that should be considered by all fair minded folks is, "is it ethical, honest and fair for all residents to pay for the activities of just part of the population?" I am persuaded that costs associated with safety, peace, sanitation, orderliness, and cleanliness should be shared by the entire population of residents, because all residents benefit from those costs. When a municipality adopts programs (mainly recreational) that are utilized by only a part of the population, the decision makers (aware or unaware) are imposing costs on certain residents who receive no benefit and gave no permission for assuming the costs. Some would say this is unethical and a violation of the responsibility to represent all citizens in fairness.
The tragedy of the decision makers in Orem, who voted a decade ago, to adopt UTOPIA, is that they are imposing costs of an activity that most citizens do not use (they use other internet providers) and without the citizenry permission. In summary, there is an inevitable tax burden increase associated with new programs.
David E. White, Orem  David White. Daily Herald Newspaper.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Utah County to be well represented at GOP convention. Billy Hesterman. Daily Herald Newspaper.

At least 14 Utah County Republicans are either national delegates or alternate national delegates for the GOP convention being held in Tampa, Fla.

Utah County will be well represented this week when, if all goes as planned, Mitt Romney accepts the Republican nomination to be the party's candidate for president of the United States.

Utah's delegates will have prime seats at the convention. The Romney camp appears to have rewarded Utah for its continuous support of Romney, as Utah's spot on the floor is just stage left of the podium, about a dozen rows from the front. Four years ago Utah was said to have one of the poorer spots in the house on the floor. Romney won Utah's GOP presidential primary in 2008 -- Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign placed Utah in the less than desirable spot for that convention.
Utah has 37 total votes when the nominating process begins. Utah's delegation in Tampa is actually double that size, though, as alternate delegates also were selected and have traveled to the convention just in case one of the main delegates needs to leave.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love both are expected to speak at the convention. Chaffetz was originally scheduled to speak on Monday but on Sunday he said that with the party canceling the first day of the convention, due to Hurricane Isaac, that he could end up speaking during the day on Tuesday. Billy Hesterman.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

UTOPIA leaders have high hopes, few answers for the future. Billy Hesterman. Daily Herald. August 2, 2012.

 Following the release of the state Legislature's audit on the Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency, House Speaker Becky Lockhart made a strong statement on the viability of the costly multi-city owned fiber-optic network.
"I am personally glad I don't live in a UTOPIA member city," Lockhart said.
The Provo Republican noted that she already has seen the bleak results of a city attempting to run its own fiber-optic network with iProvo and stated that she is concerned about the consequences for residents of the UTOPIA member cities.
"What is the impact to the taxpayers of the cities if this doesn't work?" Lockhart asked.
UTOPIA officials were a little murky on that during a meeting with state lawmakers on Wednesday at the state Capitol. The audit was made public at about the same time.
"The only way out of this is to work our way out of it," said Kane Loader, Midvale city manager and chairman of UTOPIA's board of directors.
UTOPIA executive director Todd Marriott said he believed that UTOPIA could be close to breaking even now, were the agency not trying to expand at such a rapid pace. He noted that he feels the future is bright for UTOPIA even if the audit isn't as glowing about its past.
Five Utah County cities are members of UTOPIA; Orem is the largest of those and second largest in the whole group, but the network is only available in parts of the city. West Valley City is the largest city in the group.
The audit was an 18-month project that came at the request of Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem. It took a considerable amount of time because the audit team found documenting much of UTOPIA's operating activities difficult. Auditors noted in their report that staff was required to rely heavily on information gathered during interviews with principal staff, board members and consultants as opposed to reporting documents that contained information such as number of subscriptions.
The audit states that UTOPIA has faced multiple management problems since its inception in 2002, which have led to the questionable state in which the multi-city owned business now sits. The audit stated that failure to meet the ambitious goals set by the original management team, bond proceeds not being put to productive use, poor planning, unreliable business partners and a lack of sufficient subscribers all have led to the company having a book value of negative $120 million.
"UTOPIA has had nine consecutive years of operating losses. These annual deficits have caused serious damage to the agency's financial position," the audit states.
The audit states that most of the proceeds of the $185 million in bonds taken out to pay for the cost of building the fiber-optic network was invested in poorly utilized and partially completed sections of the network. Only 59 percent was used to cover infrastructure costs; 15 percent went to operation costs while 26 percent went toward debt service.
The audit also states that UTOPIA staff and board members describe their problems as arising from poor construction planning and mismanagement. Staffers told the auditor that it was a mistake for UTOPIA to build sections of the network in many different cities at once and that practices like not charging residents an installation fee show the mismanagement of the agency. The report notes that it is unclear if management ever had a prepared development plan with the initial contractor when it began construction of the network.
"We would find it alarming if a government entity attempted such a highly complex and expensive construction project without drafting a formal written plan approved by a governing board," according to the audit. "Costly management mistakes have also contributed to UTOPIA's financial problems. Interviews with UTOPIA board members, staff and consultants uncovered a number of poor decisions and weak business practices."
The audit also found that management's decision to purchase $3.3 million worth of set-top boxes to be used to display the network's video content on subscribers' televisions was a poor use of funds. Due to slow construction of the network only 32 percent of the set-top boxes were used, and with the creation of the DVR the boxes quickly became obsolete. UTOPIA eventually sold some of the boxes for $274,000 total.
In 2008 UTOPIA put in a new management team to address many of the issues that are now being unveiled by the Legislature's audit. The audit gave UTOPIA four recommendations to improve its practices. They include adopting better management controls, using better financial practices, complying with the Utah Open and Public Meetings Act and strengthening board oversight of the agency's operations.
UTOPIA officials noted that many of the issues identified in the audit are being addressed now by the current management. Loader stated that the current management team is expecting success in the coming years, not the predicted failure that Lockhart perceives may be coming for the network.
"Many people refer to me as the captain of the Titanic, I don't think I am the captain of the Titanic," Loader said. "I think I'm the captain of the Starship Enterprise. I am boldly going where others have not gone before."
Despite Loader's and Marriott's optimism that the agency will become successful, UTOPIA lost $18 million during fiscal year 2011, the third year that the management team has been in place.  Billy Hesterman. Herald

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Utah’s transparency problem. Eric Ethington. Op Ed Salt Lake Tribune.

      Eric Ethington is interim communications director for Alliance for a Better UTAH.
During the 2012 legislative session, Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, succeeded in passing SB21, which effectively stripped several environmental regulatory boards of the requirement that their membership include medical practitioners, replacing it with a requisite for "industry representatives." Utah’s Radiation Control Board, responsible for the regulation and oversight of radiation within our state, is the first to be affected.

In a further affront to transparency, the Legislature has continued its refusal to apply a fee waiver exception to the release of redistricting information to the State Democratic Party, as well as to The Salt Lake Tribune and ABC4. The documents have been prepared. The work has been done. The Democrats paid the $5,000 they were originally quoted. But now the Legislature wants another $10,000 to release the records on the basis that release of the information is not in the public’s interest.
Redistricting is a critically important undertaking, with a wide-ranging impact on our democratic process, and it received enormous public attention. It involved dozens of public meetings and, no doubt, hundreds of closed-door meetings. It is hard to imagine anything more in the public’s interest than understanding how the outcome came to be, yet the Legislature has erred on the side of secrecy rather than transparency.  Eric Ethington. Salt Lake Tribune.  

Friday, August 24, 2012

Xactware breaks ground on Lehi Building

In May, the state of Utah gave the Orem-based software maker $32.3 million in tax incentives on the promise it would hire 860 workers over the next two decades. By VINCE HORIUCHI

Local dignitaries and businessmen turn dirt during the groundbreaking ceremony of Xactware's future building in Lehi on Thursday, August 23, 2012. The new 210,000-square-foot office building will feature a state-of-the-art data center, beach volleyball courts, basketball courts, and a fitness center. JAMES ROH/Daily Herald

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Xactware Corporation employees l-r Brandon Harding, Brian Carroll, Scott Parkin and Michael Gratzinger from the accounting division take their turn shoveling dirt and mugging for a fellow employee's camera. Groundbreaking for the new offices of Xactware Corporation August 23, 2012 on West Morning Glory Road in Lehi, whose software is used by contractors, insurance companies and others to estimate building repair costs. The company plans to invest $130 million in a new 250,000-square-foot campus $32 million the company received in tax incentives from the state. The company plans to hire more than 800 people over the next two decades.

Artist rendering of the new Xactware Software building in Lehi.

Xactware will spend $130 million on the new facility and infrastructure, according to The Governor's Office of Economic Development. Over the life of a 20-year tax incentive agreement the company made with the state, the company will create 859 new full-time positions with full benefits, pay more than $756 million in new state wages and pay $129 million in new Utah tax revenue. As the company completes this expansion, over the years, it will qualify for a maximum post-performance tax credit of up to $32,262,990 over the life of the agreement.
Vince Horiuchi Salt Lake Tribune Business

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

NBC 'Rock Center' will devote full hour of prime-time television to Mormonism. Thursday, Aug. 23, at 9 p.m. MDT

In a week when Mitt Romney has started to show and tell more about his Mormon faith, NBC's "Rock Center with Brian Williams" is devoting a full hour to the subject of what it means to be "Mormon in America."
The special, which "Rock Center" calls "ambitious and lively," airs Thursday, Aug. 23, at 9 p.m. MDT, making NBC the first network to devote a full hour of prime-time television to Mormonism.
"It is a uniquely American faith and church," said the show's executive producer, Rome Hartman. "Next week we will have the first Mormon as the nominee of a national party. This is the time for Mormonism. But it's not just because of Mitt Romney. This is the fastest-growing religion in America right now. The hottest show on Broadway is 'TheBook of Mormon.' It is a Mormon moment. And our program has no hidden agenda, no snark. It's an honest, lively look at Mormonism."  Deseret News

Harry Smith and Jeff Benedict during the filming of "Rock Center" at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. Provided by NBC News 'Rock Center' with Brian Williams/August 2012

Romney’s Mormon Story. Ross Douthat. The New York Times Op Ed Columnist

"THERE’S an interesting dilemma facing the filmmakers who are presumably hard at work, in some well-hidden editing room, on the biographical movie that will play just before Mitt Romney accepts his party’s nomination: What should the movie say about Romney’s Mormonism?

So far, Romney has said very little about his faith in this campaign, which is clearly how he likes it. Indeed, his campaign has pushed back vigorously against even innocuous press coverage of Mormon folkways and beliefs, on the theory that trying to explain a much-distrusted, much-misunderstood religion could only distract from the economic message."  Ross Douthat.

A sculpture in the visitors’ center at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Orem referendum could freeze tax increase

While petition sponsors know it's too late to get it on this November's ballot, their real intent is to get the referendum in place. That would freeze the tax increase until a special election can be held in June or the next municipal election in November 2013.
Councilman Hans V. Andersen, a proponent and sponsor of the referendum, said he was aware a tax hike was coming as early as a year ago and indicated the city knew the same. "They will tell people this freeze will hurt," Andersen said. "This is my way of saying the voters need to be involved with this. Last year they knew an increase was coming and they didn't tell anybody."
Andersen also is suggesting there are a variety of areas where city administration and department heads could still find money without hurting the level of service in the city. He suggests several ideas. The first is to stop paying nearly $1 million on a null contract between Nordstrom, Woodbury Corp. and the city.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Bernie Doud protests raises in Orem taxes

                   Bernie Doud protests raises in Orem taxes with a sign reading "Shame on Orem City" among other things at the corner of Center Street and State Street in Orem on Saturday, August 18, 2012. JIM MCAULEY/Daily Herald.

“Stop raising my taxes and cut where necessary,” Bernie Doud said as he stood on the corner of Center and State streets in Orem. He held a three-panel, white cardboard sign that read in large all capital letters “Shame on Orem City, 25 percent tax increase,” among other phrases calling for voting action against the city council.
He had gotten a lot of honks and thumbs up from passersby in the busy intersection during the couple of hours he stood outside of the Orem City Center on Saturday.
“Live within your means,” Doud said. “If you only have a certain amount of revenue, you can’t steal from your neighbor.”
Orem city originally proposed a more than $3.3 million increase in property taxes and reduced the increase to $1.7 million after public outcry at a recent hearing in the city council chambers."  Herald

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Governor Herbert gives Orem Company $32,262,990 tax incentive to move to Lehi

Xactware Invests $130 Million In New Lehi, Utah Facility, With Plans To Hire 859 Employees
"As an incentive, The Governor’s Office of Economic Development said as the company completes this expansion and meets hiring quotas, it will qualify for a maximum post-performance Economic Development Tax Increment Financing tax credit of up to $32,262,990 over the life of the agreement.

With customers in North America and Europe, Xactware’s servers process more than 14,000 claims files each day.

Xactware Solutions (Xactware) is a Verisk Analytics (Nasdaq:VRSK) company that specializes in the property insurance, remodeling, and restoration industries. Xactware’s technology tools include software estimating programs for PCs and tablet PCs, as well as powerful online systems for replacement-cost calculations, estimate tracking, and data trending in real time. For more information about Xactware’s products and services, contact Xactware at 1-800-424-9228 or
Jens Dana

Friday, August 17, 2012

Daily Herald Poll: Questions for Orem residents


Send your comments to or call 344-2942. Please leave your name, hometown and phone number with your comments. E-mail comments should not exceed 100 words; voice-mail comments should be no longer than 30 seconds. Anonymous and unverifiable responses will not be published.
The Daily Herald will publish comments on Aug. 26.
"UTOPIA, after all, was supposed to be the intractable hungry beast behind the bulk of the proposed tax increase. But if raising taxes (as opposed to reallocating existing dollars) was essential -- and we mean truly essential -- the council would have had no choice but to stick with its original numbers.
Necessary and essential are hard words. They leave little room to wiggle. And yet Orem residents witnessed $1.8 million of wiggling at Tuesday's truth in taxation hearing.
All this may provide interesting insight into government's process of deciding what is actually necessary vs. what is wanted by elected officials. When something is necessary or essential, it's not subject to negotiation.
Yet the proposed tax increase in Orem was cut in half, raising an obvious question: Was the proposed hike really necessary to begin with? Or was it merely a way to avoid difficult management decisions?
Given the difficult economic straits of our time, managing strictly for needs is the only ethical course.
But now, suddenly, they're willing to raise taxes by a fraction of what they said was absolutely essential. It appears there are other ways to get the money.
Perhaps there should be a truth in politics law. But truth in taxation will have to do. Public hearings to justify tax increases and receive public input can have real teeth. Note, for example, the Provo School District tax increase in 2000, after which all five board members were replaced.
In Davis County, a 138 percent tax hike was proposed in 2002 for county services. It took two election cycles for voters to replace the three-member county commission.
Orem would do well to take a lesson.
As for huge tax increases to cover UTOPIA debt service and other city services, residents of Orem should be commended. They took action and their representatives listened."

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Jim Evans, Orem Mayor is Sr. Vice President and Chief Operations Officer of Xactware, Orem Business moving to 210,000-square-foot office building in north Lehi.

              Jim Evans, Orem City Mayor is Sr. Vice President and Chief Operations Officer of Xactware.
Xactware NewsXactware

Xactware Invests $130 Million In New Lehi, Utah Facility, With Plans To Hire 859 Employees
Area Development Online News Desk (08/15/2012)
Xactware Solutions Incorporated, a provider of management technology for the property insurance, remodeling, and restoration industries, will invest an estimated $130 million to locate its new 210,000-square-foot headquarters at Traverse Mountain Business Park in Lehi, Utah, with plans to hire 859 employees over the next two decades. 

According to the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development, Xactware’s insurance company customers write 80 percent of all claims in the United States. Each day more than 14,000 insurance claims files flow through Xactware’s Utah-based servers. 

The firm plans to move its headquarters and operations center from Orem, Utah, several miles north to Lehi, a city of 47,400 residents on Interstate 15. Its new facility, which will be located near Timpanogos Highway just two miles from the new Thanksgiving Point FrontRunner station and within walking distance of a future TRAX station and the new Murdock Canal Trail system. The facility will feature a state-of-the-art data center, beach volleyball courts, basketball courts, and a fitness center. 

As an incentive, The Governor’s Office of Economic Development said as the company completes this expansion and meets hiring quotas, it will qualify for a maximum post-performance Economic Development Tax Increment Financing tax credit of up to $32,262,990 over the life of the agreement. 
“Xactware has experienced phenomenal growth by tapping into Utah’s hard-working and intelligent high-tech workforce,” said Jim Loveland, Xactware’s president and CEO. “We’re pleased to be able to continue our growth and build on the strength of our Utah roots.” 

“We are very excited that Xactware has decided to come to Lehi,” said Lehi’s mayor, Bert Wilson. “We are building our own little Silicon Valley out here, and we are thrilled to have yet another high-tech business come to our city. The employees Xactware brings are nothing but high-caliber.”

Orem City to Cut Ambulance, Fire and Police Department

Who made the decision to have Orem City fill the budget deficit by cutting the ambulance, police and fire department budgets?

"The city will fill the rest of its budget deficit by making several cuts including holding off on making an ambulance and police car purchase.  It will also wait to buy a new air pack for the fire department."  Noah Bond.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Xactware, Orem Business moving to 210,000-square-foot office building in north Lehi.

Xactware Adds Sketch to Latest Version of XactScope
Jim Evans, Orem's Mayor is Sr. Vice President and Chief Operations Officer of Xactware.
Xactware was founded in 1986, and has 460 employees; most are based in Orem. Others work in London, Ireland, the Netherlands and Canada. Xactware develops computer and mobile software solutions for professionals involved in estimating all phases of building and repair -- from remodeling and total building replacement to calculating a structure's replacement value and preserving and repairing a home.

About 80 percent of insurance repair contractors and 19 of the top 25 U.S. property insurers rely on Xactware's products to estimate structural repair costs, according to a press release from the company. With customers in North America and Europe, Xactware's servers process more than 14,000 claims files each day.
The groundbreaking will take place at noon Aug. 23 at 3900 N. Morning Glory Road in Lehi. Dignitaries expected to attend include Gov. Gary E. Herbert, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, Wilson and Loveland.
Xactware office in Orem, at the mouth of Provo Canyon, was completed in 2007, and it has taken the company just five years to outgrow it.
Barbara Christiansen. Daily Herald.

Xactware Building at mouth of Provo Canyon.
                            Traverse Mountain Community

Orem City Voted for 25% property tax increase at Truth in Taxation Hearing.

Orem City Council Meeting ended in a compromise, cutting the proposed 50% tax increase in half and taking away raises for employees. In the end there was a compromise, the Orem City council voted 4-3 to approve a compromise property tax increase of $1.7 million or nearly half of the proposed $3.345 million increase. Councilmembers  Karen McCandless, Mary Street, and Hans Anderson all voted against the compromise.   Hans Anderson was firmly against any property tax increase, while McCandless and Street didn't like the compromise voted on in the end, and because they felt the tax increase should be more than $1.7 million. 

  Robert Oscanyanll   "I just hope that everyone remembers why Mary Street and Sharon McCandless voted against the amended proposal when election season comes around. They only voted against it because they felt the tax should be higher. " Robert Oscanyanil

"A 25% tax increase, with the remainder being made up with cuts to this years budget, no raises for employees and about 600k in reserve being used. It was actually amazing to watch members of the city council realize they had to cut and that the citizens were not going to take a 50% raise in their city property tax. It took 2 hours of back and forth until they finially had the votes. It was amazing to hear 2 of the council members totally ridicule the voters in the room and speak to us as though we were just peasants."  David Kyle Facebook.

"The Orem City Council ended meeting shortly after 2am. Not even kidding. They are raising property owner taxes in Orem by 25% to pay a few million to UTOPIA internet. If you want UTOPIA internet you need to pay $2,600 to install it or take a lean on your home for $3,000 plus monthly service fee's. If you don't pay the tax the City will seize your property. UTOPIA looks like they are headed for bankruptcy. Is this really happening in Utah? This is a elected body of City Government."  Keith Allan Kudar Jr. Facebook

Sutherland Institute Video You Tube

The Mero Moment is heard each week on radio stations throughout Utah. This week, Sutherland Institute President Paul Mero explains his opposition to UTOPIA.

Daily Herald

Orem property owners raised their hands to show who was present to oppose a hike in property taxes in the Orem City Council Chambers in a hearing related to UTOPIA and tax hikes to cover the associated debts on Tuesday, August 14, 2012. JIM MCAULEY/Daily Herald.

Orem residents waiting to speak at hearing.  Daily Herald.
Orem residents at Orem City Center for Truth in Taxation Hearing overflow into lobby and up the stairs.  Daily Herald.

Utah Taxpayers Association