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7:56 AM Mon, Dec. 17th

Supervisors' battle over spending plan, proposed property tax hike may be resolved today

'This county has plenty of money'

HILDY ANGIUS-Opposes tax hike

HILDY ANGIUS-Opposes tax hike

Mohave County Board of Supervisors will discuss and possibly approve the 2016 tentative budget that calls for a 15-cent increase in property tax rates to offset an estimated $3.8 million deficit caused by state "sweeps" of county funds.

The meeting begins at 9:30 a.m. today in the County Administration Building, 700 W. Beale St.

Total general fund revenue for the preliminary 2016 budget is $80.7 million, an increase of $1.6 million from the 2015 budget. Some modifications have been made for the tentative budget.

The board voted 3-2 to approve the higher property tax at its July 6 meeting, with Supervisors Steve Moss and Hildy Angius opposed. The tax would increase from $1.81 for every $100 of assessed property value to $1.96. The property tax has not been raised since 2011.

Moss submitted an alternative budget proposal that would avoid any tax increases or department cuts that would adversely affect county services.

He wants to take $3.8 million surplus from the $6.8 million motor vehicle replacement fund to cover the entire shortfall from the Legislature.

The board chairman also recommended sweeping nearly $2 million from the county's TV district to beef up the budget's contingency fund.

Angius said it's interesting how people can look at the preliminary budget information presented by county Financial Services Director Coral Loyd and see different approaches to resolving the deficit. She didn't struggle with budget decisions as other supervisors said they did.

"I was able to see what we have and the bottom line is this county has plenty of money," Angius said at the Mohave Republican Forum. "It is not a doomsday scenario as everyone thinks."

The Mohave County Republican Party "strongly encourages" Supervisors Jean Bishop, Gary Watson and Buster Johnson to reconsider their vote for the property tax increase when they meet Monday. It was the "hot topic" when the group met July 11, district director Steve Robinson said.

"It's time for the county to have more transparency regarding where all the cash is stored," he said.

Bishop made a motion to raise the sales tax by one-quarter cent, which would allow the county to lower property taxes. However, increasing the sales tax would require a unanimous vote, and Bishop found no support for her motion.

She went along with Supervisor Johnson's motion to increase property taxes because the county has been dipping into contingency funds for a number of years to cover declining tax revenue and shifts in state funding. Bishop also noted a number of financial liabilities facing the county, including increased costs to operate the Kingman Animal Shelter, early payoff of debt for the new jail, and attorneys' fees for water issues and bankruptcy cases.

The tentative budget for 2016 includes the property tax increase that would amount to $2.5 million, a $3 million transfer from the vehicle replacement fund, and a $2.5 million placeholder for state cost shifts, Finance Director Loyd said.

Finding solutions to offset the $2.5 million in state shifts and sweeps was "paramount" in developing the 2016 preliminary budget, she said. The county also had to cover another $1.3 million deficit from the previous year, which included indigent defense costs and a continued decline in taxable assessed valuation. The tentative budget proposal still includes money for architectural services for the proposed new courthouse, but does not include the proposed $2 million transfer of funds from the TV district. It also includes departmental cuts presented in the preliminary budget.

The Board of Supervisors may consider other modifications to reinstate portions of the budget for departments with areas of concern before adopting the tentative budget.

A public hearing and final adoption of the budget is scheduled for Aug. 3.

Other items on today's agenda:

• Approve maintaining the flood control district tax rate of 50 cents per $100 of assessed value.

• Approve maintaining the library district tax rate of 32 cents per $100 of assessed value.

• Approve adopting the television district tax rate of 5 cents per $100 of assessed value.

• Approve setting the holiday lighting district tax rate of 1.76 cents per $100 of assessed value.

• Acknowledge truth-in-taxation hearing notice and set the public hearing for Aug. 3.

Mohave County FY2015-16 Preliminary Budget

Fund name; 2015 budget; 2015 estimated; 2016 preliminary

General fund revenue: $68.4 million; $62.9 million; $65.2 million

Department revenue: $9.5 million; $8.2 million; $9.5 million

Operating transfers: $1.17 million; $1.16 million; $6.11 million

Total general fund: $79.2 million; $72.3 million; $80.7 million

Source: Mohave County Financial Services Department