Supervisors approve $173 million tentative budget

The Mohave County supervisors on Monday adopted a $173 million tentative budget for the 2002-2003 fiscal year, up from $148 million for the fiscal year that ended June 30.

The budget reflects revenue that exceeds expenses for the general fund and the carryover of unspent funds in the general fund and other sources, including state and federal funds.

The general fund, derived from sales and property taxes, fees, fines and other sources, accounts for about $50 million of the budget and is used to pay for general county operations and services.

The county actually spent only $97 million of the $148 million budgeted for the past fiscal year.

Of that amount, $5.8 million is being carried over from the general fund, finance director John Timko said.

Also, he added, "Some of that (unspent funds) is reserve accounts for bonds.

It (also) includes $4 million in the health insurance trust fund."

Timko said the $49 million of unspent money from the 2001-2002 budget also comes from a variety of other sources, including state and federal grants, the amounts of which were not known when budgeted a year ago.

The supervisors are scheduled to adopt the final 2002-2003 budget Aug.

5.

According to state law, the final budget may not be larger than the tentative budget approved by a 2-1 vote Monday.

District 3 Supervisor Buster Johnson of Lake Havasu City voted against, saying he had requested $116,000 for his own office but will receive $95,000 instead.

Johnson said he also favors returning to the building fund $2.6 million transferred from the quarter-percent sales tax during the past fiscal year.

Over Johnson's objections, supervisors Pete Byers of District 1 and Tom Sockwell of District 2 voted in October 2001 to equalize the budgets for their offices in 2002-2003.

Johnson voted in August 2001 against transferring the $2.6 million from the building fund to help pay for maintaining budgets for departments paid for through the general fund.

The county's fiscal outlook is brighter than when the board approved the previous year's budget, County Manager Ron Walker said.

"What a difference one year makes," Walker said.

"We have the pleasure today to present to you a balanced budget with no tax increases."

Walker said the excess funds in the general fund may be earmarked for the contingency fund account, which is paying for unexpected emergencies such as the fires in the Hualapai Mountains.

He also cautioned that while the county is in better financial shape, its condition is not great.

He referred to the state budget crisis and a recession that is gripping the statewide economy, adding state-shared sales taxes account for 25 percent of the revenue in the county's general fund.

The tentative budget includes a recommendation from the finance staff of more than $1 million in spending increases that are nondiscretionary, meaning they must be spent for specific purposes.

They include $350,000 for the elections department, $317,000 for inmate health care in the county jail, $235,000 for the risk management insurance premium and $132,000 for mandated services in superior court.

Other spending includes $551,000 for additional staff for the public defender's Office and $500,000 in principal payments for certificates of participation, which are similar to government bonds.

Even with the additional staff, the budget assumes full-time equivalent jobs paid by the general fund will drop from 666 to 655.

Byers praised the budget process.

"This year, it seemed very smooth," he said.

"We are pretty happy with the way it went."

Sockwell concurred, saying, "I think the staff has done an excellent job turning this thing around."