New State Budget Plan Limits Impact To County

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The Gila County Board of Supervisors and county staff may not quite be breathing a sigh of relief over the state’s latest budget proposal, but they aren’t in the near panic mode caused by the Senate’s suggested balancing act.

Had the Senate proposal been enacted, the county would have been looking at cutting or absorbing $1.5 million — the total the state has passed on to it over the last three years.

The latest plan, negotiated last week between the House, Senate and Gov. Jan Brewer, will “cost” Gila County $763,715, according to an analysis prepared by the County Supervisors Association.

“But remember, that’s on top of the $550,035 per year in lottery money the county was getting,” said assistant county manager John Nelson.

Part of that loss had to be made up in higher property tax last year, he said.

Nelson said the pass down from the state to Gila County will not have many new impacts. He expects the county will absorb as much of it as possible. With the state revenue amounts in recent years, the county has been able to cover about half of the added costs and had to slightly increase property taxes to cover the rest.

“It is really too soon to say if an increase will be necessary this year. We have just started the budget process,” Nelson said.

The CSA analysis shows $342,221 from Gila County Highway User Revenue Fund money going to the Department of Public Safety; $383,812 of its Rural Restoration to Competency costs in the state hospital; and a $37,682 reduction in the state share of salaries of the county’s justices of the peace.

“It’s mostly a carry over of what the state has done for the last few years,” Nelson said.

“The main thing that is saving us is they put off the prisoner transfer to 2012,” District One Supervisor Tommie Martin said.

She added that proposal is still being studied because it is not know how transferring prisoners from the state system into the county system would impact plea agreements and victims’ rights.

Martin said one-quarter to one-third of the prisoners that might be transferred are DUI convictions. Because of that, there is talk about revisiting the mandatory sentencing legislation.

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