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4:21 AM Fri, Oct. 19th

Sales tax decision postponed by supervisors

A decision on Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan's proposed quarter-cent sales tax to garner funds for the sheriff's department and other county needs was delayed Monday by the County Board of Supervisors.

Sheahan's proposed sales tax would collect $3.2 million per year for raising Mohave County Sheriff's Office employees' salaries, purchase new equipment and replace aging vehicles.

About $2 million of the total would be available for other county salaries or general fund-budgeted expenditures.

The supervisors moved a scheduled March 1-2 special workshop meeting with elected officials and department heads to the earliest time Interim County Manager Dick Skalicky can reschedule.

District 3 Supervisor Buster Johnson asked Skalicky to schedule the first day with Finance Director Duc Ma and County Attorney Bill Ekstrom to bring the board up to date on the current finances prior to bringing in the other officials.

District 2 Supervisor Tom Sockwell said the meetings to study the finances are the first step toward solving the county's financial problems.

"We have tried to provide too many services with limited revenue," he said.

"We have to look at the entire situation inside out before making any tax decisions."

Sockwell said he would describe county finances as "bad."

"I expect we will get full cooperation within the board and with all the department heads and elected officials for the ultimate good of everyone," said supervisors Chairman Pete Byers.

"We will meet with the finance people first, then with individual department heads and elected county officials to fix the problem.

I think we have done about all the budget cutting that is possible."

Byers said that while he campaigned on a "no taxes" pledge, he sees no alternative to get the county on a fiscally sound basis.

"I do not like to pay taxes any more than any one else," he said.

"We were left with this decision and we will move on it.'

Mohave County Assessor Bev Payne reported that her budget is out of money on some items that are mandated for the office to accomplish.

"Our postage budget of $24,000 for required mailings will run out before June," Payne said.

"Our supply budget is $8,000 in the red.

The insurance budget is underestimated and vehicles are unsafe."

"Your department is the cash register for the county.

We cannot allow you to go out of business," Byers said.

Skalicky said at least two more departments are running out of money.

"We have gone as far as we can with cuts," he said.

"We just went through the budget process with a balanced budget.

Why the problems now?" Johnson asked.

Payne said the budget cuts were unrealistic in many areas.

"We will have to see what the situation is and what must be done," Sockwell said.

Ma told the supervisors that he projects the current budget will have a $1.5 million shortfall by June 30.

The board will consider the quarter-cent sales tax proposed by Sheahan after the financial study is completed.

Chief Deputy County Assessor Ron Nicholson told the supervisors that they have the option of raising real property taxes by two percent.

He said the current levy is $1.75 per hundred and the cap is $2.

The county could raise $2.5 million per year with the property tax increase.

Prior boards have tried to solve the problem with an increased tax base by bringing industry, Nicholson said.

"New industry comes at a price and a cost for infrastructure," he said.

"The tax increases are long term, usually four or five years before the new income is available.

We need immediate help."