Finance director paints bleak budget picture for county

Mohave County government is spending more general fund money than it is taking in during the current fiscal year, and can anticipate a bleak budget for the 2000-2001 fiscal year that begins July 1, the county's chief financial officer said.

County government projects a general fund deficit of $830,070 when the current fiscal year concludes June 30 and a deficit exceeding $10.2 million when the 2000-2001 year concludes June 30, 2001, Duc Ma said.

He said he anticipates general fund revenues exceeding $43.8 million for 2000-2001, up more than $1 million.

However, those estimates are below budget requests that exceed $62.5 million for the upcoming fiscal year.

The general fund comes from sources such as property and sales taxes.

Ma presented a 14-page handout that was based on a budget discussion April 20, and projected the handout on an overhead projector.

His appearance was requested by Supervisor Carol Anderson, who, along with other supervisors, has expressed concern about the county's financial health.

"We're either going to have to find additional revenues such as a new sales tax or an increased property tax and/or a very sharp knife to make the (budget) cuts," Anderson said after the presentation.

Supervisor Chairman Buster Johnson walked out of the supervisors' chamber during the presentation, saying he already had a one-on-one session with Ma.

He also voted against Anderson's request to hear the discussion, saying it was "premature."

Johnson said afterward, "It was basically a waste of time for everybody here."

The proposed budget is scheduled to go the supervisors and Interim County Manager Dick Skalicky May 23-24, according to Ma's report.

The tentative budget is due for adoption July 10, and the final budget is expected to be adopted Aug.

9.

The proposed budget is less than half of the $137 million budget adopted for 1999-2000 because the current-year budget includes also sources of funding and revenue, not just the general fund, Ma said in response to a question.

Ma has said the general fund accounts for 37 percent of the county's overall budget.

Ma said he has discussed funding options and crafting a balanced budget.

His report indicated that the county must fund a cost-of-living increase amounting to $326,000 for county employees, an additional $296,000 for employee benefits and $425,000 for cost overruns for the juvenile detention center.

"We're status quo budget for the next year," Ma said.

"No new programs."

"I just thought that the public should have an overview," Anderson said after Ma concluded his presentation.

"I'm sorry there was not a larger audience."

Only eight people remained in the audience, including an aide to Anderson and a candidate who plans to run for the seat that Anderson is vacating this year.