County commission talks cybersecurity, certifies election and adopts tax rates

by David Boyle
News Director
Members of the San Juan County Commission received a report on cybersecurity at the county, certified primary election results, and adopted the 2022 tax rates at their latest meeting.
At the July 19 meeting of the county commission, County IT Director Trae Bushore updated the commissioners about a ransomware attack on county servers that took place on Independence Day.
“On July 4th we had a ransomware attack which I was not aware of until July 5th. We had several servers that ended up encrypted, but luckily we had a backup solution in place that we were able to restore those.”
Bushore explained that the server attacked was the same one that was the subject of a hack at the beginning of 2022. 
At the April 5 meeting of the commission Bushore shared that the server was being used by a virtual coin miner. That means the server was using large amounts of county power to “mine” or create cryptocurrency, like bitcoin.
At that same April meeting, the commission approved the use of a $10,000 grant for county cybersecurity updates.
The April update saved the county a lot of headaches in July. The new program allowed the county to restore the encrypted data that had been backed up off site, rendering the hackers’ ransom of the county data effectively useless.
Still, county staff reported that rebuilding the server could cost the county $3,900, a cost that staff is submitting to insurance. It also remains to be seen if the hackers have any valuable data which they claim to hold. The state of Utah and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) are aware of the issue.
When County Commissioner Kenneth Maryboy asked about how common the issue is, Bushore explained ransomware attacks happen at companies across the world, including government agencies in Utah and elsewhere.
“Unfortunately it’s one of those things that being attached to the internet, having things out there it’s something that it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. The biggest thing is we need to make sure that we have private data secured.”
Bushore added the takeaway he had from the event is that the county has a staffing issue, with Bushore being the only person in the IT department he says it’s hard getting everywhere he needs to be.
The server itself was used for off-site public access to information in the recorder’s office.  County Recorder Cindi Holyoak said while the software has been helpful to title companies the program is limited, expensive, and oftentimes doesn’t work.
Holyoak presented an alternative program to the commission. The new GovOS system does not require a setup fee or quarterly subscription for the county.
“In the end, the user is going to pay for it; the county is not. So it’ll actually generate revenue for our office to maintain records; it will not cost us money.”
In the meantime, Holyoak does say it’ll take about three months to set up the new system which will provide challenges for title companies, especially those located far from the county.
County Commissioner Maryboy and Commissioner Willie Grayeyes voted to approve the new system. Commissioner Bruce Adams was not in attendance at the meeting.
At the same meeting, the commission approved the tax rate for 2022. County Clerk/Auditor Lyman Duncan reported that with more property being taxed this year, the majority of property owners in the county will see a slight decline in the taxes they pay to the county from last year.
County Administrator Mack McDonald explained that the county had anticipated $2.1 million in general revenue, with the actual number being around 2,055,000 meaning the county will be looking at budgets to make up that difference.
Still McDonald reported that overall the county is doing better with additional properties.
“Hats off have to go to our assessor's office and the efforts they’ve made to true up our properties. To make sure properties not in greenbelt are on our tax rolls.”
McDonald also mentioned the county is receiving payments from companies like Lisbon Valley Mining Company which has been on a payment plan to pay previous years’ taxes while also staying current on taxes.
McDonald added that in 2020 the county had held truth in taxation but the commission decided to forgo raising taxes in response to COVID-19.
“It’s something that we may have to look at here in the future to try to make ends meet, especially when you hear Trae (Bushore). He’s spot on; he needs more help. Well, where do we get the funds? Where do we cut to get more help and how do we make it sustainable in our budget?”
Real Property values in the county increased from $538 million in 2021 to $680 million in 2022. Centrally-assessed property values in the county increased from $323 million in 2021 to $325 million in 2022. Personal property values in the county decreased from $84 million in 2021 to $83 million in 2022.
At the meeting, the commission also certified the election results from the June 28 Primary.
The commission also tabled a decision to send a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Parks Services (NPS) regarding the proposed management plans for air tours over Canyonlands National Park and Natural Bridges National Monument.
County Public Lands Coordinator Nick Sandberg explained the proposed air tour management plan would allow air tours to continue as they have for over 20 years with some modifications to reduce potential impacts.
The proposed plan would authorize 73 air tours per year over Natural Bridges, which equals the average of the past three years of tours. The plan would also reduce the routes over Natural Bridges from six to five.
The proposal for Canyonlands would limit 367 tours per year, also the average over a three-year period, and reduce routes over the park from 13 to 11.
Neither management plans impact commercial flights or private flights over either area.
Tours would be limited to fixed-wing aircraft with flight hours allowed one hour after sunrise and three hours before sunset.
Altitudes would be limited to no more than 2,600 feet above ground level with the NPS having authority to establish no-fly dates for certain activities or ceremonies in the areas. 
Sandberg explains findings from the federal studies indicate the proposed plan would have no adverse effects on historic properties, with the county having the option to concur with the study or object.
Members of the commission tabled the proposal of sending a letter in concurrence with the study to allow the commission more time on the matter.

San Juan Record

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PO Box 879
Monticello, UT 84535

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