2000 Legislative Audits
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1. Summary of Report 2000-01: RESIDENCE LIEN RESTRICTION & RECOVERY PROGRAM
The Residence Lien Restriction and Recovery Fund Act has protected some homeowners from liens and has helped contractors and suppliers of construction materials recover lost money. However, we have significant concerns with the efficiency and effectiveness of this program. We believe some aspects of the act are flawed, and we recommend that the Legislature consider adding the issues identified in this report to the interim study agenda. Officials from the Department of Commerce agree with the concerns in this report. Further study of the issues in this report can help the Legislature determine how problems caused by financially negligent contractors can either be prevented or more effectively resolved.
Although the program has protected some homeowners, contractors and suppliers, its deficiencies are significant and necessitate further legislative study. Specifically, this report discusses the following concerns: (1) Total costs incurred to resolve claims are excessive, (2) Some homeowners are protected under the law but improvements are needed, (3) Contractors are frustrated with the lien recovery process, (4) Suppliers receive a disproportionate benefit from the program, and (5) Options exist to enhance or replace the current program and should be explored.
2. Summary ofReport 2000-02: SPECIAL SERVICE DISTRICTS IN WASATCH COUNTY
We have completed our analysis of allegations concerning special service districts (SSDs) in Wasatch County as requested by the Audit Subcommittee. We found that three Wasatch County SSDs were not well controlled in the past. However, we found that the county commission's actions regarding the fire district were legitimate. On the other hand, Wasatch County's overhead charges for employees leased to the SSDs appear inaccurate. Also, state water usage standards were not equitably applied among SSDs. Further, the Timber Lakes Water Special Service District (Timber Lakes) could improve its decision-making analysis.
3. Summary ofReport 2000-03: EMPLOYMENT & TRAINING PROGRAMS
The State of Utah has addressed most of the problems described in our 1992 audit of Utah's Employment and Training System but there are a few issue that still need to be addressed. Our audit led to a restructuring of the state's job training programs and employment services and the consolidation of these programs into a single Department of Workforce Services (DWS). The result has been an agency that is much more focused on customer service than the old workforce services system. In addition, consolidation has allowed the department to eliminate many administrative and support positions. However, the department has not able to reduce the number of employment counselors as expected. We also question whether the level of oversight provided by the state and regional councils is meeting the high expectations that are envisioned by the statute and whether the Legislature is sufficiently involved in deciding important policy matters. This report identifies several important policy issues that the state and regional councils, as well as the Legislature, should consider.
4. Summary ofReport 2000-04: DIVISION OF FACILITIES CONSTRUCTION & MANAGEMENT
This report indicates that while the Division of Facilities Construction and Management (DFCM) is taking steps to improve facility maintenance, Utah needs to address certain issues to further improve the maintenance of public facilities. We also found that DFCM can improve its management of construction contingency funds and increase accountability within project budgets. In addition, improvements are possible in services to agencies leasing space.
Our audit was requested by the Audit Subcommittee of the Legislative Management Committee, primarily to review issues presented in a 1992 report released by this office. (See A Performance Audit of the Division of Facilities Construction and Management, #92-07, for further information.)
5. Summary ofReport 2000-05: ADOPTION TIME REQUIREMENTS
Foster parents who adopt their foster children have expressed frustration with delays in the adoption process. We were asked to evaluate if their dissatisfaction stems from non-compliance with statutory time requirements. We believe adoptive foster parents are justified in their dissatisfaction with the time state adoption procedures take. A limited test indicates that for 17 adoption cases, 71 percent exceeded statutory time limits. Utah's statutory time limits are intended to expedite the process of placing children with permanent families and promote adoptions when appropriate for the child.
Full Report -A Letter Report on Adoption Time Requirements
6. Summary ofReport 2000-06: TOURISM PROMOTION FUNDING
Utah's tourism promotion program focuses funding and operations at the county level. While few Utah Code violations exist in counties' spending of the $46 million tourism tax revenues, overall emphasis on direct tourism promotion spending can improve. The Legislature should be aware that significant portions of county tourism tax revenues are spent on capital improvements, public improvements, and county fair parks and rodeos, rather than on direct tourism promotion.
The spending of $4.8 million in general funds for state-level tourism promotion can also improve. Funds for state-level tourism promotion are administered by the state's Division of Travel Development - better known as the Utah Travel Council (UTC). The UTC can help overall tourism promotion in Utah with improved communication and assistance to counties. Increasing competition from other states, however, may require that Utah direct more funding toward tourism promotion. In this circumstance, the Legislature may wish to address possible methods of performance-based funding mechanisms to maintain Utah's tourism market share.
7. Summary ofReport 2000-07: SCHOOL TEXTBOOK FUNDING
From our statewide survey of over 650 teachers who reported on approximately 81,000 books, we estimate that $30.6 million is necessary to replace books in poor or outdated condition and to provide textbooks in adequate numbers statewide. This money is needed to replace an estimated 313,600 books in poor or outdated condition and to add an estimated 495,700 books to meet student needs. If the Legislature decides to provide more money for textbooks, we believe that a proportionate fund allocation should not be used. Rather, we believe funds should be allocated on a need basis. Supply needs such as workbooks and computer software were not considered in our survey.
Also, it appears likely that districts and/or schools reduce their own spending (supplant) for textbooks and supplies when supplemental funds are provided them by the Legislature. Estimating the amount of funds supplanted is difficult. However, one analysis raises the possibility that $4.9 million was supplanted by 16 districts between fiscal years 1996 and 1999.
Full Report -A Performance Audit of State Textbook Funding
8. Summary ofReport 2000-08: CLASS-SIZE REDUCTION IN PUBLIC EDUCATION
The Legislature allocated over $344 million total since 1990 to reduce class size among Utah's school districts. In 1999 Utah's school districts received in excess of $56 million to support class-size reductions. Our audit determined that many districts commingle class-size reduction monies with other district funds and cannot account for specific expenditures related to class-size reduction efforts. Because 59 percent of class-size reduction monies are commingled with other funds, we cannot be sure school districts have spent class-size reduction funds as intended by the Legislature, in spite of the fact that the Utah Code requires school districts to account for class-size reduction spending.
The Legislature intended board leeway revenue be used to help school districts reduce class size. From a sample number of school districts, we determined that about 40 percent of the board leeway revenues were spent for teachers and other appropriate class-size reduction purposes. However, 28 percent of the board leeway revenues have not been used for class-size reductions-but rather for teacher benefits, salaries, cost over-runs or to replace other district expenditures. We believe that much of this spending was not in compliance with the requirements of the law.