Salt Lake County health and school officials have declared a truce in their legal battle over cafeteria inspection fees.
The two groups admitted that they need each other. So, they have decided to trade services rather than cash to settle a dispute over the health department's authority to charge school districts a fee for cafeteria inspections.The county contended that the school districts believe the inspections should be financed by countywide taxes, not out of school budgets.
But at a Salt Lake City/County Health Department board meeting Thursday, superintendents from Salt Lake, Granite and Jordan school districts steered clear of the authority issue and simply told the board that budgets were too tight to pay the fee.
In a lawsuit, the county lists the amounts owed by the districts: $7,875 by Granite, $6,600 by Jordan and $4,025 by Salt Lake City.
The superintendents then said they are doing their part to promote good health through immunizations, anti-smoking campaigns and other programs.
With that, the board agreed those efforts are worth something to the department and could be taken as payment for the inspection. It then ordered attorneys to draft a memorandum of agreement settling the matter.
But, while attorneys for both sides draw up the truce, the philosophical question surrounding the lawsuit remains unanswered:
Should tax-funded agencies charge each other for services?
"It's a question governmental agencies are asking a lot," said deputy county attorney Thomas Christensen, noting other local tax-funded agencies with kitchens pay the inspection fee.
The courts have already held that schools could be assessed fees for sewer service, and a case involving flood control fees charged to schools is on appeal before the Utah Supreme Court.