County Could Have $96m Budget

Tentative numbers get approval, final decision to be made in mid-July

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Expecting no increase in property tax revenues, county staff brought a $96 million budget to the board of supervisors Tuesday.

The board approved the tentative numbers, which total $96,468,130 and reflect a reduction in expenditures needed to maintain existing programs by an average of 5 percent. The board set a July 17 public hearing for a final hearing on the budget.

The $422,518 increase in total budgeted expenditures over 2011-2012 is due to anticipated grants and some carryover of grant and restricted funds, said Joseph Heatherly, Gila County finance director.

The budget includes $275,000 to help Gila Community College, a decision the college board has been anxiously awaiting for months.

About 35 percent of the county’s income comes from property taxes; while grants and restricted funds account for another 35 percent. Also contributing to anticipated revenues are state-shared sales taxes and the county’s own half-cent sales tax levy. The county also gets federal payments in lieu of taxes, to help cushion the impact of having 97 percent of the land in the county off the tax rolls since it belongs mostly to the U.S. Forest Service and several Indian tribes.

County Manager Don McDaniel said the budget didn’t eliminate any existing service, but doesn’t add any new programs either. The budget doesn’t include any money for new hires, although the county recently suspended its long hiring freeze.

The budget doesn’t include any increases in the base pay, but does include an increase for inflation and some raises based on a new system of performance appraisal, McDaniel said. Those changes will cost about $750,000.

The budget also includes $500,000 to pay a consultant to do a classification and compensation study. The consultant will review county positions and make recommendations to ensure the people with similar jobs and time on the job get paid fairly — both when compared to other departments and to the private sector jobs with comparable skills.

“It is about positions, not people,” McDaniel said.

Supervisors Shirley Dawson and Mike Pastor said they had both warned McDaniel to expect a lot of headaches and heartaches from this particular project, but called it a move in the right direction.

Board Chairman Tommie Martin said she favors finally talking about rewarding the employees after everything everyone has been through in the past couple of years as a result of repeated state reductions in county funding.

In response to a recent request from the board of directors of the Gila County Community College District, the budget also included the $275,000 to help GCC maintain its properties around the county and pay for utilities.

The GCC board at the end of April agreed to ask the county to give the district $300,000, even though the county last year finally turned over ownership of the current campus and an additional 25 acres of undeveloped land to the district.

The county had signaled that with the land ownership transfer it might stop providing the $300,000 annual subsidy it gave when the county owned the campus.

Breaking down the budget expenditures in general terms, McDaniel noted that 38 percent of the budget goes to the general fund; 41 percent covers grant and restricted fund requirements; 12 percent remains in reserves; and the balance of 9 percent goes to other items.

Law enforcement accounts for 59 percent of the county’s budget, including the sheriff’s office, the courts, the county attorney and jails. Another 22 percent covers administrative costs; community development and the contingency fund each account for 3 percent; 1 percent goes to the health department; with the final 2 percent going to other costs.

The administrative costs include the board of supervisors and constituent services (17 percent); administrative services, community services and professional services (15 percent); assessor’s office (13 percent); computer services, general administration and finance/purchasing (30 percent each); recorder’s office (9 percent); elections (7 percent); treasurer’s office (6 percent); and human resources (3 percent).

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