Before passing a $91-million budget Monday, county officials attempted to squelch accusations that they spend too much money.
The fiscal 2008-2009 budget was unchanged from the tentative one passed late last month and includes a $5-million loan and an $800,000 transfer from the rainy day reserve. The board also allocated $2 million for new court or probation facilities in Payson.
However, Globe resident Ted Thayer complained the budget's 11-percent increase over last year was triple the rate of inflation. A candidate for the Gila County Supervisor District 3 seat, Thayer said the budget has ballooned 34 percent since 2004.
"The fact is that we taxpayers have been expecting reductions in service and a reduced, or at least static, tax burden," Thayer said. He suggested supervisors send the budget back to staff for reconsideration.
Thayer also lambasted Supervisor Shirley Dawson for attending an ASARCO mining company press conference when supervisors passed the tentative budget, instead of performing what Thayer said was one of her most important duties.
Thayer accused the supervisors of creating the budget in secret. "Now, after two weeks of analysis, we get to stand here and jack our jaws for nothing," he said.
"There is nothing that is done that is secretive," Dawson replied.
"I was present and I probably put in a (lot) more hours than is statutorily expected of a supervisor."
Dawson had participated in the July 21 budget meeting by telephone. She said she was representing her constituents by attending the press conference, which was essentially called to support one company's bid for ASARCO in a bidding duel.
Dawson also mentioned her husband once took a class about lying with statistics, and said numbers can be twisted to create numerous scenarios.
Deputy County Manager John Nelson said Thayer's figures didn't take into account the increased amount of grant money the county has received, which inflated the bottom line. In addition, a larger population demands more services, he said.
"There are some people who want to put out that this county is hoarding money," Dawson said. Some propose the supervisors slash positions. "I don't know of a position in this county that should be eliminated."
Supervisor Tommie Martin said costs for general government --which is what I think people complain about," -- decreased by $10,000 in the 2008-2009 budget.
The two major increases include an extra $1.1 million for law enforcement, for a total budget of $12.6 million. In addition, an extra $129,000 went to the library district, with a budget of $1.2 million. The Meth Coalition will also receive $50,000.
Nelson said rough economic times generally equate to increasing crime rates -- "crimes of despair." County officials also anticipate a wider demand on county services such as the library because of the economy.
The $725,000 that Gila County will pay the state of Arizona includes $111,750 to help with state crime lab fees.
Increased property taxes will furnish the county with an extra $792,524. The tax increase will result in a $16 increase on a $100,000 home, to a total of $392. County officials said the extra property taxes will just cover the amount of money the county has to pay to the state.
Of the $5 million borrowed from Greater Arizona Development Authority, $3 million will pay for pre-fabricated units to house female inmates at the Globe jail.
Nelson said the number of female inmates has increased dramatically and more space is needed to house them.
The other $2 million will allow for new justice facilities in Payson. The borrowing comes after voters "smothered" a request last year to finance a new jail and courthouse in Payson and upgrades to Globe's facilities, Nelson said. County officials haven't yet determined what new court or probation facilities they'll add to the existing court complex in Payson.
"This isn't intended to be a long-term fix." Nelson expects the solution to last roughly a decade. "I think that's a pretty good payback," he said.
GADA offers money in both the fall and spring. Nelson said the county will likely apply for the spring offering. He anticipates an interest rate below 5 percent.