Supervisors remain at odds on spending habits

Buster Johnson and Hildy Angius

Buster Johnson and Hildy Angius

KINGMAN – With Mohave County facing a projected $2.8 million budget shortfall, the question now is how to absorb such a liability.

While the solution has yet to be agreed upon, county supervisors are at odds on how they’ve gotten into debt. Last year the county was able to absorb a more than $1 million budget deficit, but not so this year.

Supervisor Buster Johnson and others have said the county is in its budget dilemma because of its own overspending habits.

“It’s kind of crazy when we keep spending,” Johnson said. “Look at the last board meeting and paying $12,000 a month on a lobbyist and $395 an hour for a lawyer on water rights issues, and then we are asking to raise taxes.”

Johnson points to other instances of what he says is unwise county spending including a $50,000 expenditure in 2015 to stock trout in the lower Colorado River near Davis Dam.

“I seriously don’t understand what Supervisor Johnson is referring to,” said Supervisor Hildy Angius. “We spent this money to save a $74 million industry in Mohave County, and yes, that was one of my contributions to the spending and I think it was a good one. If stocking fish in the river was halted, it would have affected many places including Lake Havasu City. If the District 3 supervisor didn’t think that was a good idea, I wonder about his commitment to the economy.”

Johnson was the lone vote against the fish purchase that swept the necessary money from the county’s parks department.

“My vote was not against the fish, but against the funding source,” Johnson said in a previous interview. “We are sweeping funds from a fund that is self-sufficient. If we continue to do this, our parks department will no longer be able to operate on their revenues alone.”

To cover the current projected budget shortfall, county supervisors have proposed similar funding shifts with the latest coming from Angius.

In totality, including tapping into as much as $1.8 million in restricted funds, Angius’ budget suggestions could result in the financial shuffling of $6.2 million to $6.7 million to address the county’s most immediate financial needs.

“If we want to look at spending, I am all for it,” Angius said. “I think we spend too much on vehicle replacements, and as the sheriff has said, it’s nice to have shiny new cars, but if we don’t have bodies to put in them, what is the point? I am open to looking at spending, but we all have a part in what has happened during the last couple of years. It’s not just a couple of supervisors. We have all agreed on certain expenditures.”

Regardless of which camp is correct, Lake Havasu City Mayor Mark Nexsen said his counterparts at the county could take a page out of his playbook in dealing with a tough budget 10 years ago by leaving no financial stone unturned.

“When I came on board we had a sewer project that was over budget and we were headed into the middle of the Great Recession,” Nexsen said. “Instead of spending down our reserves to maintain our lifestyle, I chose to reduce our lifestyle by making cuts to personnel that exceeded 20 percent.”

With its remaining workforce, the city then turned its attention to reorganization and consolidation of its departments.

“I have always been a believer that I would rather make the difficult cuts where we must, because eventually if you don’t, it will come back to haunt you,” Nexsen said. “Too many cities today struggle because they didn’t make the adjustments they should have years ago. Even though the cuts we made were painful … as of April our general fund reserve was somewhere in the neighborhood of more than $30 million.”