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Corroon, county auditor differ on consultant's recommendation about budget process

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 4 2011 6:30 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — A consultant is recommending Salt Lake County's mayor become the budgeting officer, taking that responsibility from the county auditor.

But Auditor Greg Hawkins said he does not think that will happen.

The debate over the auditor's role as budget officer has lingered in the county since the county switched from a commission to a mayor-council form of government a decade ago.

The Salt Lake County Council decided to seek outside help examining the issue, and hired The Government Finance Officers Association research and consulting center in Chicago to examine how best to structure financial management and accounting resources within the county. 

The mayor, County Council and other county officers, like the auditor, are just getting their first look at a draft of the consultant's findings this week.

"There are conceptual efficiency, effectiveness and collaboration gains from moving financial transaction processing to the mayor from the auditor, mostly stemming from the elimination of hand-offs of work across organizational boundaries and increased responsiveness of these functions to the mayor," the draft reads.

"I do strongly endorse the recommendation," said Mayor Peter Corroon, who is not seeking re-election. "It comes in the sunset of my administration, so I'm not supporting this form for myself, I'm supporting this for future administrations."

He said a majority of counties with AAA credit ratings, which Salt Lake County has, place budget responsibilities with the mayor's office.

Hawkins said the assignment of budget responsibilities is driven by state statute, and he does not see the consultant's recommendation effecting changes. He said the auditor is the budget officer in all 29 Utah counties. "It would be highly unusual to move it into the mayor's office."

His view of other AAA-rated counties is that "they're similar to ours," and suggested that even discussing such a change could adversely affect the county's credit rating.

"It could alarm the rating agencies," Hawkins said. "The council does not want our AAA rating reduced. That may be the primary reason they don't move it."

An open discussion among the county's elected officials about the consultant's findings is not expected for several weeks.

E-mail: sfidel@desnews.com Twitter: SteveFidel

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