Originally Published: May 2, 2016 6:01 a.m.
PRESCOTT – Yavapai County Board of Supervisors this past week accepted nearly $4.8 million in program changes from the county’s department heads.
It was the first step of their annual budget process, with department heads making the case to the board during morning meetings Monday through Thursday, April 25-28.
The big-ticket item is a countywide merit increase and longevity credit program, with a general fund price tag of $655,722 plus another $125,363 in the jail district.
“This is my No. 1 priority – is the merit increase,” Supervisor Chip Davis said Thursday as the board finalized their directions to staff on what to put into the budget.
While the Board of Supervisors OK’d the merit increase and longevity credit program, they nixed a 1 percent range and cost-of-living adjustment that would have cost more than $600,000 between the general fund and jail district.
“I’m not sure we need the COLA if we’re going to do the merit increase,” Chairman Jack Smith said.
Most the proposed program changes before the board were additional employees that department heads requested as a way of getting back to previous staffing levels that were frozen or reduced during the previous decade of economic recession.
The board originally included a proposed countywide public information officer, with a salary cap above $70,000. By the end of the week, however, they’d merged that position proposal with a request for an audio-video technician for the Management Information Systems Department.
“I think the position – and I’ve spoken with several media outlets – and this would be invaluable to them,” Smith said.
Currently, the county has two departmental public information officers. Those PIOs include Dwight D’Evelyn in the Sheriff’s Office and David McAtee in Community Health Services.
Noting his election bid for the statehouse means he’ll no longer be a county supervisor after 2016, Davis too gave a nod to the PIO position.
“You all have a really good story to tell,” Davis said. “It just doesn’t always get out.”
The board added more than $157,000 in job reclassification costs to be considered as part of the county’s general fund budget, added to more than $368,000 in special districts.
Supervisors repeated questions about property assessment appeals Tuesday when Assessor Pam Pearsall appeared for her scheduled presentation, but at the end of the day agreed to include her request for a copier.
They did, however, question the costs associated with staff training in Florida, which they board is expected to discuss during future budget workshops.
Within the county’s nearly $4.8 million in preliminary program change approvals, there’s about $1 million in capital expenses.
It includes $200,000 to replace the parking lots for the Yavapai County Criminal Justice and Detention Center on Gurley Street in Prescott.
Another $335,000 in capital improvements is slated for the jail district. Within that amount, $60,000 would go to a water softener system to protect the plumbing infrastructure and $25,000 to convert to low-energy LED lighting.
In departments countywide, supervisors noted management and staff have continued to trim expenses, with most departments expected to finish the year under budget.
Supervisors said that makes it easier to support departmental requests.
“Your budget is still $1 million less than it was 10 years ago,” Davis told Development Services Director Steve Mauk before the board accepted his request for a plans examiner, a records technician and records clerk, totaling more than $150,000.
Supervisor Thomas Thurman said cuts in recent years mean the county is less able to meet the public’s demands in a timely manner.
“It used to be people wanted to build in the county because it was easier to get through the bureaucracy,” he said. “Now that’s flipped.”
The board also noted the results of implementing a fleet rotation program. It’s getting older, high-mileage vehicles out of service and resulting in lower ongoing maintenance costs and better purchase prices when the county sells vehicles at auction.
That’s put the county in the position of being able to consider purchases like a side-by-side all-terrain vehicle to be shared across departments, including facilities, flood control and others.
The entire budget is still in flux, with more than $3 million in Highway User Revenue Fund monies still to be decided in the Legislature.
The final revenue figures will be the deciding factor on which of the program change requests make it to the final budget.
County Administrator Phil Bourdon said staff will prepare a preliminary budget for the Board of Supervisors to consider in May.
During the board’s June 1 and June 15 meetings, the board and staff will refine those figures. The board is currently scheduled to adopt a tentative budget July 6 and a final budget Aug. 3. Truth-in-taxation hearings are slated for July 30 in Cottonwood and Aug. 3 in Prescott.