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Tue, Sept. 17

Yavapai County heads begin budget struggle

Yavapai County department heads asked supervisors last Monday to restore about $235,000 worth of budget requests.

The supervisors didn't make any decisions yet, but probably will formulate their positions by July 15 when they are scheduled to adopt a tentative budget.

Arizona's laws governing counties don't require a final budget by the time the budget year starts July 1. They have until the second Monday in August to adopt a budget for the fiscal year that began Monday.

Right now the new Yavapai County budget sits at $174.7 million, an 18 percent increase over last year's budget of $148 million. That figure assumes the same property tax rate as last year.

This year's budget includes about $39 million worth of major capital expenses not in last year's budget – a new jail, the new Fain Road east of Prescott Valley, a new administration building in Prescott, and an extension of Mingus Avenue in Cottonwood.

The county's $1.3 million contingency fund, often called a "rainy-day" fund, technically would allow the supervisors to grant the $235,000 worth of requests that department heads made Monday.

But the county also plans to use part of that fund to pay for any merit increases for employees. A 2.6 percent merit increase could total $300,000 to $400,000, County Administrator Jim Holst estimated. The supervisors also plan to use that fund for unknown costs related to demolishing abandoned and dangerous buildings and other unknown future needs.

Seven department heads asked the supervisors to reconsider their requests for various budget items that supervisors previously eliminated: Superior Courts (court services coordinator and security needs), Verde Valley Justice of the Peace (printing costs), Clerk of the Superior Court (records clerk and overtime pay), Assessor (travel), Development Services (land use records clerk), Health Department (summer environmental health specialist, account clerk to full-time, and medical receptionist) and Sheriff (temporary salaries, overtime pay, jail operations equipment, and ammunition).

Supervisor Gheral Brownlow had to miss Monday's meeting so he could see his grandson take command of an Army Intelligence Branch unit, but he left a letter saying he believes the draft budget spending shouldn't increase at this time.

Rather, the county should wait until about December when it has a better grasp on its state-shared sales tax revenues, Brownlow wrote.

Contact Joanna Dodder at jdodder@prescottaz.com

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