Walker issues report on financial stability, seven other goals

Achieving financial stability is one of eight goals that Mohave County Manager outlined in a 21-page report issued to his three bosses – the county supervisors – on Monday.

He listed it as the first of eight goals, and it is one that Walker has grappled with since he started on the job May 1, 2001.

Walker stuck to his previous plans for easing the financial crisis in the general fund: by raising sales and property taxes.

He also urged the supervisors to consider other measures such as restoring the secondary property tax for the sheriff's office – known as the "sheriff's override" - and general obligation bonds.

The report discusses the health of the general fund, the transfer of county tax funds intended for buildings into the general fund, carryover funds from the previous fiscal year, the contingency fund and the effect of rapid population growth.

Property and sales taxes and other sources go into the general fund, which pays for a variety of county departments.

Walker produced the report as recommended business strategy, goals and objectives designed for county government from January through the close of the terms of the three supervisors in December 2004.

But since he generated more than 60 pages, the supervisors indicated that they want to review them and plan to resume the debate in two weeks.

"That needs to get reviewed too – his three-year plan," District 2 Supervisor Tom Sockwell said.

Walker once again recommends doubling the sales tax to a half-cent on the dollar and raising the property tax – currently $1.75 per $100 in assessed valuation – to "our maximum legally available primary property tax."

The previous board approved a quarter-cent sales tax, which went into effect Jan.

1, 2000, to raise an estimated $125.9 million for county buildings over a 20-year period.

Walker has recommended raising property taxes by 21.94 cents per $100 in assessed valuation, but indicated in the report that the property tax rate could be adjusted when financial stability is achieved.

The current and former board deadlocked on raising both sales and property taxes.

Buster Johnson of District 3 said he would not support a sales tax – which requires a 3-0 vote - without an internal audit in place; and Pete Byers of District 1 and Tom Sockwell of District 2 will not back a property tax hike without also raising sales taxes.

Over the objections of Johnson and Walker, they voted to tap $2.6 million from the existing sales tax revenues for the general fund operations when they adopted a $150 million budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2001.

Walker also recommended a mission statement for an office of management and budget, financial and management audits and strategic planning.

"I do not believe the county can create a modern financial function without a major change," he wrote.

Walker's seven other goals are:

• Mohave County must create, manage and improve its "most effective organization."

• The county must create an advanced process to enable it to attract and retain quality managers and employees.

• Create a formal planning, programming and budgeting system for capital asset improvements and infrastructure.

Capital assets include vehicles.

• Enhance the public health and safety process.

• Create an emergency response program.

• Create a strategic planning system and make the system the "way Mohave County creates a better future and manages."

• Create, carry out and manage a "strategically sustainable, comprehensive county growth and economic development strategy and plan."