County Begins Fiscal Year With $17 Million Surplus

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Gila County Supervisors gave tentative approval to a $75.2 million budget this week.

Final approval will take place Aug. 1, with tax rates set Aug. 21. At that point, the supervisors can reduce expenses and move money around, but cannot raise the amount budgeted, said County Manager Steve Besich.

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An elevator for the county complex in Payson is one of the major capital improvements included in the 2006-2007 budget.

The revenues for the 2006-2007 fiscal year include $17 million in money remaining from last year's budget, $18.4 million in property taxes and $48.1 million from other sources. Among the "other sources" are state shared sales taxes, the county's half-cent sales tax, licenses, permits and fees, and a variety of intergovernmental payments. Grants are also part of the revenue stream, but limited to the projects for which they were awarded.

"We will include anticipated grants," said Nelson, "but they don't always come through or are less than expected."

Money for department

The county's most expensive department to operate is public works with $18.2 million budgeted for it in 2006-2007. Last year, $14.4 million was budgeted.

The primary sources of revenue for public works include $7.6 million that was not spent in 2005-2006, $5.6 million from highway user fees and vehicle licenses, and $3 million from the county's half-cent sales tax.

Another big expense is law enforcement, which includes the costs of both the county attorney's office and the sheriff's office.

The law enforcement budget for 2006-2007 is $10.1 million, with the bulk of that, $6.7 million going to the sheriff's office, plus an additional $826,875 for detention health services and jail maintenance. The total planned budget for the sheriff's department is $7.5 million. For 2005-2006 it was $6.4 million.

The special revenue funds and programs are another large part of the budget, but these are the programs where funds are anticipated, but if not received the programs don't move forward.

"The biggest thing with the budget is what's not there," Nelson said. "Money was not set aside for new jails. Both in Globe and Payson the jails are overcrowded, labor intensive, outdated and maxed out."

Although there will be no capital improvements for the county's jails, there is $1.4 million budgeted. Nelson said the money will primarily be used to construct the elevator for the county complex in Payson and do repairs on special windows in the county courthouse in Globe.

Employees

At the same meeting where the supervisors approved the tentative budget, a market salary survey was reviewed. The survey recommends raises for everyone, ranging from $48 to $8,000 per year.

If the survey recommendations are accepted, it will cost approximately $1.1 million to fund.

The study showed 89 percent of county employees are receiving less than others in similar jobs around the state. Eleven percent were actually being paid below the minimum paid market range for similar work.

No one employed by the county was receiving more than the market average for his or her work.

The county had 595 employees at the time of the study, Of those, 38 were receiving below the minimum for similar jobs; 318 were above the minimum, but still below the average; and 239 were at the average and due for a cost-of-living raise.

The salary survey was the most contentious aspect of the budget work, Nelson said.

The supervisors are still combing through the recommendations before final action is taken, he said.

The budget provides for only a few people to be added to the county payroll, Nelson said.

"We are adding one person in each of the justice courts and one person to superior court, plus five detention officers," Nelson said.

He added last year the county contracted for a study on how many detention personnel were needed to staff the jail facilities. It was recommended that 15 officers be added. Nelson said five were added at the time the supervisors accepted the study, five more were added at the first of the year and the five added with the new budget are the last of the additions.

Taxes

While the final tax rates will not be set until Aug. 21, the county is anticipating property owners will have to pay approximately 2 percent more than they did for 2005-2006 because of the rise in property values despite the fact that the actual tax rate has gone down. The county tax rate is expected to be $4.35 per $100 of assessed valuation. Last year it was $4.41. With the addition of taxes for the county's library district and fire district assistance, the total county-wide rate will be $4.65 per $100 of assessed valuation, last year it was $4.71.

Residents and business owners also will be paying taxes for their school districts, fire districts and sanitary districts.

The county has a net assessed value of $412,254,721.

Final action on both the budget and salary issue will be taken at the Aug. 1 meeting of the Gila County Board of Supervisors, Nelson said.

-- To reach Teresa McQuerrey call 474-5251 ext. 113 or e-mail tmcquerrey@payson.com.

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