Board unanimously approves budget

John Timko

John Timko

KINGMAN ­ For the first time in four years, the Mohave County Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted the budget for fiscal year 2006-2007.

Despite restrictions from the state resulting from the passage of the Truth in Taxation Law, the budget Finance Director John Timko presented the Board was similar to the tentative one approved on July 10. The budget, Timko said, proposed a General Fund Budget of $85.9 million, an 11 percent increase from last year's budget.

During the initial process, Timko said it was necessary to cut approximately $16 million out of the budget due to the reduction in the primary revenue for the county ­ the primary property tax.

Significant changes from the tentative budget, Timko said, included the funding of $251,000 for a small business revolving loan program (included in the community development budget), funding necessary to expand the county building code county-wide (funding for this and additional staff was included in the Planning and Zoning and the Building Inspections Department budgets).

"The State Legislature removed your authority to set the property tax levy this year. In passing HB2876, they mandated a levy no greater than the 2005 levy plus 2 percent, plus new construction. The impact on the FY 2007 budget was a reduction in the levy rate from $1.75 to $1.6777, which represents a revenue reduction to the county of $1,160,000," Timko said.

In addition, changes made to the tentative budget included a reduction of $336,500 in expected Arizona Long Term Care System costs. According to Timko, the costs to the county for ALTCS and Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System still increased by $443,500, a 4.8-percent increase as opposed to the 8.4-percent increase it would have been.

"In summary," Timko said, "the state capped our largest revenue source (real estate taxes) at 2 percent while allowing one of our largest single expense items (AHCCCS/ALTCS) to increase at 4.8 percent. The net impact on our budget was $1,523,500. Long term, this kind of fiscal policy is doomed to fail."

In addition to these changes, Timko said two Public Health nurses have been added due to the significant increase in demands for service caused by the increased population, 13 positions were added to the jail budget at a cost of $590,000 to respond to safety issues caused by significant overcrowding of the jail and the adjustment of the per diem billing rate to $55 per day and the addition of a $65 booking fee.

The new full time positions added to the general fund budget will not go into affect until Jan. 1 so that they would only be funded for six months out of the fiscal year.

Timko said the 2007 proposed general fund budget would allow the county to move forward on many strategic issues. They were able to fund, he said, $2.4 million in new initiatives with the addition of 25 new full time employees and several small equipment purchases. In addition, he said, there was funding available to keep county salaries and benefits competitive. Funding remains available to begin the critically needed construction on a new 848-bed jail facility.

The county would be able to, under this budget, move forward on a new morgue ($900,000), a records storage/warehouse facility ($350,000), a motor pool fueling station across Route 66 from the Administration Building ($300,000) as well as upgrades for the Kingman and Mohave Valley animal shelters ($100,000 each). All of these projects, Timko said, would be funded by the 1/4-cent sales tax and not from the use of general fund dollars.

"I once again wish to thank my staff for their excellent efforts in preparing this budget and thank the Board and the county manager for their leadership and involvement in the process," Timko said. "Staff acknowledges that many needs of the county will be neglected by this budget. Many worthwhile ideas for improving service and efficiency will not be implemented due to limited funding availability. Many requested and justified positions, needed to meet the demands of our exploding population, will have to wait for another year due to fiscal constraints. Of the nearly $17.4 million in new requests and 91.5 requested new positions, we are only able to fund $2.4 million and 25 new positions. However, staff feels that this budget represents the optimal allocation of our resources for the needs of the coming year."

There were few questions from the Board regarding the budget. Chairman Pete Byers requested a few points of clarification, however, Timko was able to answer his questions to his satisfaction.

Some questions did arise from the proposed 8 percent increase in staff salary. While the Board members said that 8 percent sounded pretty high, none of them wanted to be in the position they were four years ago with so many positions open. Byers said after they just did the market adjustment to make county jobs competitive, it would be a shame to fall right back to where they were.

Presiding Judge Randolph Bartlett asked the Board for an exception to be made for seven new fulltime employees that had been approved in the budget. He wanted permission to hire these employees now instead of waiting until Jan. 1.

Timko pointed out that only three of the seven employees were pushed back until January.

The Board approved the budget unanimously, allowing for the exception for Bartlett to hire two employees before Jan. 1.

In addition to approving the budget, the Board unanimously approved the decrease in property tax levy rates from $1.75 per $100 valuation to $1.6777.