County officials kick off budget plans for next fiscal year

Mohave County government officials plan a kickoff meeting Monday for work on the 2003-2004 budget.

Finance Director John Timko recently sent a memo to elected officials and department heads notifying them of a staff meeting set for Monday afternoon in the county supervisors' chambers at 809 E.

Beale St.

"It's the mechanisms of how to submit your budget," Timko said.

"We just try to get together and get basic budget information," Community Development Director Susie Parel-Duranceau said.

Some department heads already have worked on their budgets for the 2003-2004 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Public Works Director Mike Hendrix said managers of divisions such as roads and flood control began working on their budgets a week and a half ago.

Timko said he expects general fund revenue to increase $2 million to $3 million.

The general fund, derived from property and sales taxes and other revenue sources, accounted for more than $51 million of the $178.8 million budget adopted for the current fiscal year.

Timko said he also anticipates a $900,000 increase in the county's contribution to the retirement fund.

The county has about 1,200 employees, including those working for the courts.

Timko and County Manager Ron Walker have said that the budget will be affected by the efforts of Gov.

Janet Napolitano and the state Legislature to trim about $1.4 billion in spending for fiscal years 2003, the current year, and 2004.

State officials are trying to shift costs to the counties for mandated services such as the restoration-to-competency program, in which defendants are tested at the state mental hospital, and for sexually violent prisoners.

On Feb.

14, Walker said the state was trying to pass $983,936 in costs on to counties for the current fiscal year and $2.7 million for 2003-2004.

Timko said, "When the state finally does something, we'll react to it."

For instance, if state officials decide to cut a grant from the Department of Health and Social Services, county officials will need to find alternative funding sources or cut that service.

Timko said the meeting Monday will be open only to staff, but future meetings will involve the county supervisors and opportunities for the public to comment.

He said he expects the tentative budget to be approved in June and a final version adopted in July.

"I think things are so up in the air right now" because of the state budget crisis, District 2 Supervisor Tom Sockwell said.