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Front Page » August 10, 2006 » Local News » News
Published 3,056 days ago

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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher


Rep. Jim Matheson discusses issues related to mining with company officials at Skyline Mine. The lawmaker and members of his staff toured the mining facility, which closed for a short period in 2004.

Mining operations have resumed and with contracts being established, company officials expect production to again reach the levels it did in the late 90s when the mine was in full swing. Skyline is one of three mines operated by Canyon Fuel Company, one of the states leading coal producers. Other company operations include Dugout Canyon Mine and Sufco Canyon Mine. Most of the coal produced at the three mines is used locally for power generation.

One of the concerns brought up between company officials and Matheson is that an estimated 65 percent of the state's coal reserves is tied up in the Kaiparowits Plateau, under the Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument. As mining exhausts resources in other parts of the states, mining companies look to the Kaiparowits as one possibility to keep jobs and energy revenue flowing within the state.



A construction worker cuts across eastbound lanes on Highway 6 in Helper. Traffic in the area has been shifted to westbound lanes. Much of the work going on now relates to relocating utility lines and replacing conduits and walkways under the highway. The speed limit through the interchange construction site has been reduced from 55 to 45 mph. Utah Highway Patrol officials said they will strictly enforce the lower speed limit and reminds drivers that fines double for speeding in work zones. By driving at a lower speed, motorists help ensure safety for flaggers, construction workers and other motorists. The UHP encourages all motorists to slow down, obey flaggers and drive safely.



Kerry Jensen stands by a Gary Prazen rendition of Mont Harmon's mascot, a pirate. This year as principal, he will be the leader of the Pirates, but will blend in well because of his 12 years of experience at the school as an assistant principal before going to Carbon High and Wellington Elementary.

When Kerry Jensen heard last spring that some principals in Carbon School District would be shifted around for the 2006-07 year, he wasn't concerned.

After all, the veteran teacher and then Wellington principal had put in time as an administrator at all three levels since beginning his career with the district in the late 1970s.

And when Jensen found out he would move to Mont Harmon as the principal of the junior high school, he felt like he was going home.

"I really liked being the principal in Wellington," he said as he sat in his office at the junior high preparing paperwork. "But I spent a lot of years here before and it is very familiar to me."

Jensen is one of three principals replacing others administrators at schools around the district. He spent from 1988 to 2000 at Mont Harmon as an assistant principal.

"Every level of education has its advantages and drawbacks," pointed out Jensen. "The thing that is unique about educating kids in this age group is the influence you have over the rest of their lives. Ask anyone at any age who attended junior high and ask them to name two influential teachers in their life and at least one of them will be an instructor they had at the junior high level. What teachers do with this age group sticks with people, and often guides their careers for the rest of their life."

Jensen's tenure with the district began when he was hired as a teacher at Sally Mauro Elementary, where he spent two years. He taught at the old Reeves School for two years, went back to Sally Mauro for another year and finished his time teaching at the elementary level at Creekview, where he spent five years.

The next year, Jensen took sabbatical leave to earn an administrator's certificate. While doing his administrative internship and splitting that time between Carbon and Emery school districts, an opening came up at Mont Harmon through a series of transfers due to the illness of a principal at an elementary school. It was late in the school year and the district asked him if he would fill in as an assistant at Mont Harmon for the rest of the year and he did so.

The fill-in position turned into a permanent assignment the next year.

In 2000, Jensen moved from Mont Harmon to Carbon High as an assistant principal and transferred to Wellington Elementary in 2001.

Jensen looks forward to the upcoming year, partly because many faculty members who were at Mont Harmon when he was an assistant principal are still at the school.

But he also pointed out that the school will have two new English teachers, one new health and physical education teacher and at least one new computer teacher. He will also have a teacher that will be shared with another school.

When asked about coming challenges, he had a list, but noted they "weren't anything we can't overcome."

"Right now we are still fiddling around with the schedule for this year," he said. "We are already seeing that we are going to have more students than we thought and we will have to find room for them."

He also said that another challenge, due to changes over the past few years at Mont Harmon, will be that he and his new assistant principal, Carol Wells (previously principal at East Carbon High and at Petersen Elementary last year), will have to create a feeling of stability for faculty and students.

"And despite the fact I spent so many years here I am still going to have to reacquaint myself with working at the junior high level," he said.

"It takes a lot of dedication to stay working at the junior high level as a teacher," he said. "It isn't always easy, and it takes special people to stay put. This faculty has some very choice people on it."

As for what parents new to Jensen's administrative style can expect he says he always likes to keep an open door and to listen to people's problems.

"I will listen and give kids fair treatment," he said. "But that doesn't always mean a parent will get the answer they want when they come to see me, but I will do my best."

Jensen says a junior high school is an institution that is there to not only make students better academically but also help kids to be better citizens.

"The years I spent at Wellington Elementary were some of the best years of my educational career, but now I look forward to spending some very good years here too," he concluded.


Residents in Helper, Wellington, Sunnyside and East Carbon will likely see a sharp increase in building permit fees.

In July, county planning director Dave Levanger presented a resolution to Carbon commissioners regarding the matter.

Levanger is in the process of working with each of the cities to hammer out the details of interlocal agreements between the county and cities.

Officials in Sunnyside and Helper have agreed to the terms of the contract.

Levanger was scheduled to discuss the matter in Wellington at a city council meeting Wednesday and said he plans to discuss the proposed agreement with officials in Scofield in the future.

The matter came up a few months ago when Levanger found that the county was subsidizing building inspections in cities where Carbon government provides inspection services.

Under the terms of the old contract, cities receiving the service, except Helper, were paying $1,100 to the county to provide the service.

Helper received the service at no charge, but provides fire and rescue service to a large area of the county in exchange for the inspection service.

Levanger calculated the costs in labor, travel and other expenditures that the county was incurring by providing the service to the cities.

The planning director found that each of the cities was paying an amount significantly less than the actual cost to the county.

Carbon officials agreed that it is not in the county's best interest for county tax payers at large to subsidize services which would normally be provided by a city. Further, such an arrangement may by illegal under Utah law.

In order to place the financial burden of county inspection services back onto each of the cities, Levanger proposed that the county adopt interlocal agreements and establishing a method of charging the cities and permit applicants within the incorporated areas for the services.

In the proposal, Levanger took the total operating cost of the county planning department and divided in into the number of hours spent last year. He came up with an estimated per-hour operating cost of the department of $87 per hour.

By reviewing the travel time and fuel costs for a trip to each city, the planning director added in costs that are specific to each city.

Inspections in Scofield are expected to be the most costly, averaging $194.25 per inspection. Sunnyside follows at a cost of $142.20 per inspection, with Wellington and Helper both coming in at $112.35.

Levanger looked at the average number of inspections per permit and the anticipated number of permits to be issued in each county.

The planning office works primarily in unincorporated areas of the county, where officials expect to issue 300 building permits in the next year, compared to 80 in incorporated areas.

Each permit requires an average of four inspections.

County planning officials used historical data to determine the expected number of permits for the next year. Helper will likely issue 30 permits as will Wellington. Both Sunnyside and Scofield are expected to issue 10 permits.

The total anticipated cost to the county for performing inspections in Helper and Wellington each is $13,482.

Inspections in Scofield will likely cost $7,770, with costs in Sunnyside estimated at $5,688.

The figures are a far cry from the $1,100 charged under previous agreements and Levanger has set out to develop a way of collecting the costs from the entities benefiting from the services.

Since the agreement has the potential of costing the cities more, county officials stated that they did not want to place an impact on city budgets, which began a new fiscal year on July 1.

Part of the reason for which incorporated areas use county inspection services is that the costs are well outside of the cities' financial capacities.

Many cities review and debate expenditures into the hundreds of dollars and literally watch the pennies of all expenses.

In order to generate the funds to cover the costs, Levanger told county commissioners that the planning office will increase fees for the permits.



General revenues for Utah's state and local governments as a percent of total personal income continue to climb.

Current decade general revenues exceed the level reported in the 1960s by approximately 28 percent. The majority of the growth occurred during the 1960s and early 1980s.

Most of the increase is attributable to increased federal revenues and state and local government fees, indicated Utah Taxpayers Association analysts.

State and local taxes, excluding fees as a percent of personal income, remained comparatively stable during the designated time period.

According to the independent public policy organization, state and local TPI taxes are currently 3 percent more than in the 1960s, but 2 percent less compared to the 1990s.

The taxpayers association recently analyzed the revenue history for state and local governments covering the years 1960 to 2004.

The results, as a percent of total personal income, include.

•General revenues are defined as state and local taxes, fees, miscellaneous revenues and transfers from the federal government.

Excluded are revenues from government utilities, liquor stores, unemployment compensation, government employee retirement and unemployment insurance.

In 1960, state and local government general revenue was 15.60 percent of total personal income in Utah and 12.60 percent of TPI in the U.S. By 2004, the percentages increased 22.30 percent and 20.10 percent respectively.

The majority of the growth occurred in the 1960s and early 1980s.

Utah's general revenue for state and local governments as a percent of total personal income has exceeded the national average every year since 1960, although the gap in percentage terms decreased in the 1970s and 1990s.

•Utah state and local governments have received more federal revenues annually than the national average as a percent of total personal income since 1960.

Federal sources as percent TPI have increased for Utah and the United States since 1960, pointed out the independent public policy organization analysts. However, the percent difference between Utah and the U.S. has been steadily decreasing.

In 1960, Utah's state and local governments received federal funds equivalent to 3.64 percent, while the national average was 1.74 percent.

In 2004, the total personal income and tax figures increased 5.19 percent in Utah and 4.53 percent in the U.S.

But while Utah's percent was 209 percent of the national average in 1960, Utah was 114.6 percent of the U.S. average in 2004. Utah's state and local government revenues from federal sources as a percent of TPI peaked in the early 1970s while the national average peaked in 2004.

•The U.S. Census Bureau began separately itemizing government fees in the 1977.

From 1977 through the mid-1980s, Utah's state and local tax and fee burden was slightly higher than the national average, except for 1977 when Utah was slightly below the national average.

In 2004, Utah's state and local tax burden as percent of TPI was 15.32 percent compared to the national average of 13.82 percent.

•Compared to other measures of related revenues, Utah's state and local tax and fee burden has been closer to the national average. Except in 2004, 1991 along with a period during the 1970s and early 1980s, Utah's tax burden has been above the national average.

In 1960, Utah's state and local tax burden was 10 percent of total personal income and peaked in 1970 at 11.61 percent.

In 2004, Utah's tax burden was 10.67 percent or just slightly less than the state's post-1960 average of 10.74 percent.

During recessions like in the early 1970s and 1980s, tax burdens decline because of decreased economic activity by households and businesses.

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis periodically revises estimates of total personal income Usually, the revisions are not large and occur within 24 months of the initial estimate for the year, explained the taxpayers association.

In May 2000, however, the bureau released a major upward revision of total personal income going back several decades. Consequently, tax burden studies conducted prior to the bureau action yield a higher tax burden than studies using the revised data.

The Utah Taxpayers Association applied the federal agency's revised data while conducting the independent total personal income and tax analysis.



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