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The City Journals

New West Jordan finance director sets to work on fine-tuning city budget

Apr 29, 2019 12:00PM ● By Erin Dixon

Danyce Steck swears to uphold the Constitution and serve faithfully to the city of West Jordan as Director of Finance. (photo/ Danyce Steck)

By Erin Dixon | [email protected]

West Jordan City finances are getting an overhaul.

Danyce Steck has finagled budgets her entire career. Beginning in Maricopa, Arizona, as a senior budget analyst, she moved through the private sector, UTA and two city governments. In Murray and Draper, she was director of finance, the same position she now holds in West Jordan. 

She swore to serve West Jordan City in March, and has already made changes to the city budget. 

“Right now, [I’m] analyzing the budget overall,” she said. “It seems that there’s been a lot of philosophies in the city. I’m in a consolidation mode. The Fire [budget] had 12 divisions. I went to the Fire Chief, ‘Do you want 12 divisions?’ He said, ‘No I want one!’ [It’s] way easier for the public, council and fire to manage. They will have the exact same budget, but now it’s put into a more consolidated visual.”

Fire Chief Derek Maxfield voiced his gratitude for the direction that Steck is moving.  

“I am extremely appreciative of Ms. Steck and her efforts,” he said. “I was really impressed with her grasp on the budget in such a short amount of time that she’s been here. That was a great hire.”

Government expenditure is the one of the main concern residents have. During West Jordan Truth in Taxation in August 2018, many vocalized unease about how the city was using the public’s money.

Resident Jamie Bevilhymer said to council during that meeting, “I wonder if in all your doings you can in your heart and soul say that you don’t waste, abuse or misspend.”

Resident Steven Jones makes a frequent appearance at city council meetings and often comments on expenditures. 

“Everything that we do should have a revenue source,” he said. “The general fund is not a revenue source. We should be able to look at it and say, me as a constituent should pay tax for a certain thing and that’s what that money goes for.”

One of his biggest concerns is clear communication about where every one of his dollars goes.  

“It’s so convoluted to know where things are, because they’re kind of somewhat hidden,” Jones said.

Communication and transparency is another goal Steck has for the city.

“One of the things I’ve been really good at is continuous improvement in communicating with the public, whether it’s truth in taxation, utility rate increases,” she said. “ Making sure they’re involved in the budget process and those kinds of things. Sometimes when we give someone a 300-page budget book, the citizen is going ‘This means nothing to me.’ Whereas, when we print a 10-page pamphlet that’s a citizens budget guide, it makes them feel like there’s value in the service and that we’re responsible for their dollars.”

Kim Wells, former public information officer for the city (who has since moved on), explained that spending government money is not simple. There are legal pathways that must be followed.

“One misconception is that government accounting is like a personal checkbook,” she said. “There are rules and regulations that [are] governed by a state code. There can be money in budget for something, but it can be restricted; you can only use it for something specific.”

Without education and clarification, sometimes residents can get the wrong idea about what the city is doing with the money. 

“Last year, they had an unrestricted fund balance in just the general fund of $11.2 million,” Steck said. “In our personal lives, that’s life changing. What they need to know is that’s 22 percent of the next years revenue. So that’s like three months of cash flow; that’s nothing to sustain a city. I think they see those millions of dollars sitting in a reserve fund and sometimes jump to an assumption that you’re collecting too much property tax.”

Steck is excited for the future. She said she missed not working for local government. 

“It’s really my passion,” she said. “I love being able to make a difference. I love that accountability. I love not just chasing a dollar but looking for ways to increase and improve and to be responsible.”