Board struggles with budget

Prop 101 tightens county’s purse strings, leaves supervisors short of funds

KINGMAN - The focus of Tuesday's budget workshop for the Board of Supervisors seemed less about what the different county departments were asking for and more about what funds were being taken away from the county. The effects of Proposition 101 on the county's coffers was repeatedly brought up by not only the Board but various department heads as well.

Proposition 101 was passed by voters in November. It limits the amount the county can increase the property tax rate to 2 percent each year plus new development.

The assessed value of property in Mohave County has increased by about 17.84 percent, said County Finance Director John Timko. However, revenue increases have been capped at about 7.5 percent by Proposition 101. In the last two years, the amount of property tax revenue the county could have collected has been reduced by $5.3 million due to the caps. The county went from $1.75 per $100 of limited assessed property value to $1.63 and this year will reduce that rate to $1.53.

At the same time, revenues from the State Shared Sales Tax and the Vehicle License Tax have decreased due to the slowing economy, he said.

County Manger Ron Walker also spoke out about the effects of Prop 101.

"The approach Mr. Timko and I have taken is to do our best to protect core services," he said. "The people voted on that (Prop. 101), and we will do our best. Our abilities to accommodate growth or add services are limited," he said.

"We can't help it if the Legislature decides to cut our funds," said Board Chairman Pete Byers.

Supervisor Tom Sockwell offered his concerns.

"People have no idea what kind of an impact it will have on services when they vote for things (like Prop. 101). They also need to look at what the Legislature is continuing to do to us," he said.

Despite the tax caps, Timko expects an increase of $2,006,877 in revenue from property taxes. Around $1,423,539 will come from new construction and $583,338 from the 2 percent increase on existing properties.

The county will actually have a 6 percent increase in total revenues over last year, he said. Total revenues include the county sales tax, fees, property tax, etc.

"While this will allow the modest increases in this recommended budget, uncertainty regarding future assaults on the property tax leads me to caution the Board against committing any significant increase in funds for additional new staff. New staff represent an ongoing cost to the county at a time when future revenues to support these positions are in question," Timko said.

He said the county could only afford to fund about $1.7 million out of the $6.5 million in petitions for projects and about 9.75 positions out of the 57 new positions requested. A number of projects were going to have to be postponed until next year.

Most of the funding for this year's projects would come from county sales tax proceeds. Timko suggested the county move forward on the new county jail project, demolishing the old senior center in Lake Havasu City and the old Sheriffs Office in Kingman, a new justice court in Moccasin, a new morgue, a new probation facility and Fort Mojave Sheriffs Substation, expansion or improvements to the superior court in Kingman and the new animal shelter projects.

The idea behind the workshop was for the Supervisors to get ideas and recommendations from the various department heads as to which projects were most important and to adjust the budget accordingly before approving it. The Board will approve the final budget during its July 9 meeting.