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4:15 AM Fri, Oct. 19th

Supervisors approve $54.4 million tentative budget<BR><BR>

A General Fund tentative budget of about $54.4 million, which contains no raises for county employees and no proposed sales tax, was approved by the Mohave County supervisors by a 2-1 vote Monday.

Supervisor Jim Zaborsby voted against the option selected by Supervisors Carol Anderson and Buster Johnson, saying he favored establishing a quarter-percent sales tax that would be used for raising salaries to make them more competitive.

The 2000-2001 budget year started July 1.

"I don't think we have any other choice than to go with the quarter-percent sales tax," Zaborsky said.

He said department heads already slashed their budgets by an average of 12 percent, as was recommended by Interim County Manager Dick Skalicky so that the supervisors would have a balanced budget.

Chief Financial Officer Duc Ma presented five options, all of which contained a $2 million "buffer" in preparation for the final budget scheduled for adoption on Aug.

7.

He said the final budget will total $137.2 million, but it will include grants and funding for special districts such as libraries and flood control in addition to the General Fund.

"The final budget cannot be higher than the tentative budget," Ma explained before the meeting.

"Therefore, we added a $2 million buffer in case additional revenues arise."

The option approved by the supervisors restores $441,486 in funding for "essential" items, a majority going to the Elections Department.

The supervisors modified the option, at Anderson's request, by cutting slightly more than $7,000 from professional services.

The budget for elections is $510,541, up from a previous proposal of about $134,000.

"Most of it will go toward paying the ladies and gentlemen who work on election day at the polling places," Elections Director Brad Nelson said after the meeting.

"The remainder goes predominantly for printing and postage."

The four other options did not contain the essential items funding.

However, three projected revenues at $2.1 million from the sales tax and were identical in total resources at about $56.5 million.

Zaborsky cited the uncertainty of a protracted legal dispute with Superior Court Presiding Judge Gary Pope.

Attorneys for the county last month filed an appeal in the state Supreme Court to overturn an order from Pope to provide $310,033 in additional court-related funding for the 1999-2000 fiscal year, as well as at least $213,967 in additional funding for this fiscal year.

Zaborsky called for support for raising salaries.

He said employees should earn 90 percent of what similar jobs pay for other jurisdictions.

He argued in favor of options that earmarked at least $500,000 for replacing vehicles in the motor pool.

John Ford, a Dolan Springs Republican who is running for Zaborsky's District 2 seat, said a sales tax would burden senior citizens.

Zaborsky is not running for re-election.

"Senior citizens really can't afford it," Ford said.

"Most senior citizens can1t afford their medicine.

I think you are going to have a backlash."

Johnson blamed the county's financial situation in part on raises approved last fall as well as higher medical expenses for employees.

The county has about 1,200 employees.

Anderson, who previously proposed a sales tax to raise employee salaries, motioned to approve the option without raises, saying she wanted to be "financially responsible."

"I think we are making a mistake," Zaborsky said.

"I think you are going to see a flight of employees."

Skalicky urged the supervisors to approve an option that would earmark sales taxes to increase the contingency fund, up from more than $2.1 million in 1999-2000 to a projected $6.1 million.

"I think we are in a serious financial crisis," he said.