Community View: Supervisor Buster Johnson should be removed from office

Board of Supervisors (BOS) member Buster Johnson should be removed from office.

Why do I make such a statement? The reason is long and detailed.

Buster Johnson is supported by the voters in LHC because he has promised not to raise taxes. But something took place this year which is having a devastating effect on every county in Arizona: Public Safety Personnel Retirement System. There is a significant shortage. The State of Arizona manages that fund.

The retirement system changed in 2012 for Public Safety personnel. Who are these people? Law enforcement and fire fighters mostly. So, employees in this retirement system from 1980s to 2011 expected a return on investment of 7.5 percent. They have been only getting 1 percent for many years. So now the pension fund needs money because these people are retiring and will be needing their payments. Each county was told how much they owe to the fund.

This isn’t the only mismanaged employee fund that the State manages. There are two more that in the very near future will need money. Right now the PSPRS unfunded pension liability for Mohave County is $20 million.

The county is required to pay it and can do it over time but not longer than 20 years at an interest rate of 7.5 percent.

The BOS has no choice, they must pay this debt.

In addition, the Mohave County Sheriff Department is severely understaffed. They should have around 115 deputies. They only have 78. We also pay the least amount to our law enforcement.

What has happened is that once they are trained and get experienced, they leave because they can get $15,000 plus per year working for another law enforcement agency. Many of the deputies are making the same pay after 10 years that they made when they started and it is called their compression issue. The Sheriff stated at a budget hearing that if he couldn’t get more pay for his people along with more deputies, there will be a mass exodus.

So what does a mass exodus mean for people who are not served by the Sheriff Department?

It could mean that people will die in the unincorporated areas of this county. When people die, who does their family send their attorney after – the deep pockets of the County of Mohave? When there is no law enforcement, there is crime.

So now the BOS, in their budget discussions over the last month, have come up with three actions they could take: First, they could approve a quarter of 1 percent sales tax. This would generate about $6.5 million and would be needed for approximately seven years. This would pay off the pension liability and solve the Sheriff pay increases and additional staffing. The BOS is restricted from raising sales tax by the county at half of l percent. There was already an increase several years ago of one quarter so there is only one quarter left. Out of 12 counties, only two counties are currently not at maximum.

Second, they could raise property taxes by 52 cents per 100 assessed value.

Third, they could pay their obligations without a property tax increase, not meet the needs of the Sheriff and not be able to have a funding source for a loan to pay the unfunded liability of the pensions at half the interest the state is mandating.

So, the Board voted at their meeting on Monday, June 19 regarding approval of an increase in sales tax as the most desirable way to solve the Sheriff Deptartment issues. This was most desirable because most of the money would be coming from our tourists who visit our area. However, for this to happen, all supervisors must vote yes. Well, guess who voted “no” – Buster Johnson.

What is the effect of his “no” vote? The other four members now can only choose to raise property taxes. Good ole Buster can vote “no” on raising the property taxes because he knows the other members of the board will not let down the people of Mohave County by endangering their protection afforded by the Sheriff.

In the meantime, good ole Buster can tell his voters in Lake Havasu that he didn’t vote for an increase in property taxes. This man is a disgrace and should be removed from office.

Buster Johnson is playing politics with people’s lives so he can get re-elected and keep his $68,000 job as County Supervisor. And most disturbing, he does not come to the meetings, he calls in by telephone. He is clever. He has an excuse for his misbehavior.

So, if you would rather see the sales tax alternative as a source of revenue for the final vote on the budget on August 7, contact Buster Johnson 928-453-0724 or email buster.johnson@mohavecounty.us.

Tell him to vote “yes” on the sales tax so the other Supervisors aren’t forced to vote an increase in property taxes on August 7 based on their duty to provide public safety for the county residents.

There will be more meetings on the budget. The vote for a tentative budget was done on June 19, which included a property tax increase because a final budget cannot exceed the amount of the tentative budget. It can be reduced from it but not increased.

I encourage voter participation in these budget meetings. Go on the county website for the date and view the agenda for the meetings.

Royanne Ortiz

Bullhead City