Ducey’s staff comes to Prescott to sell budget
Increased funding for drug abuse, border enforcement, Phoenix highways
Arizona State budget personnel from Gov. Doug Ducey’s office presented the Governor’s Executive Budget for Fiscal Year 2018-2019 in Prescott Monday, Jan. 22, with a focus on Yavapai County. The small audience attending the presentation included three Yavapai County supervisors — Rowle Simmons, chair of the Board of Supervisors, as well as Tom Thurman and Jack Smith.
Although the governor’s website noted that the presentation in Prescott was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m, weather was later noted as the reason that the start of the presentation was delayed until 10 am.
Fletcher Montzingo, the governor’s budget manager, began with an overview of Arizona’s labor market, indicating an increase over the past decade from about 2.6 million employees to 2.75 million, with the state’s unemployment rate at about 5 percent, down from a peak of 11 percent in 2009.
In 2017, Arizona was the nation’s fifth fastest growing state, and while the Fiscal Year 2018 budget had forecast revenues of $75.6 million for the period July through December 2017, actual revenues exceeded that by $11 million, Montzingo said.
The governor’s proposed FY2018/2019 budget includes an increase over two years in the exemption that veterans who receive a pension can claim, from $2,500, the amount approved in 1989, to $10,000. The change adds a cost of $15.9 million to the state budget.
Matthew Gress, director of the Governor’s Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting, said a one-time, $16.4 million increase in the state budget will go to the following:
School Facilities Board (Building Renewal grants, $10 mil), Department of Forestry (fire expenses, $4.1 mil), Land Department (CAP water rights fees, $0.4 mil), and Secretary of State (election administration, $1.9 mil).
Yavapai County schools and teachers received nearly $10 million in the current fiscal year, of which $790,000 went to teacher salaries.
Gress said the governor wants 80 percent of new discretionary spending to go to education, some of which will benefit Yavapai County.
About $34 million will be spent to permanently increase teacher salaries statewide, adding to their base-level pay and annual adjustments for inflation.
The governor also plans to invest in other areas of education in Arizona: $1.6 million for 21 new teachers for the Birth to 3 program through the Schools for the Deaf and Blind; $2.5 million for a K-12 computer science pilot program; $4 million for the second year expansion of the early literacy programs; and $8 million to higher education for capital and operations.
Some of the education funds will cover 100 percent of full-day kindergarten for districts where 90 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunch. While there are individual school campuses in Yavapai County that may come close to or meet that percent, the determining factor is not individual campuses, but the entire district.
However, individual charter school campuses can qualify for the funds, Gress said.
The county supervisors asked whether the county will receive its share of lottery funds next year, and whether the county can stop paying the state for juveniles sentenced to the state facility near Phoenix, but, instead, keep the juveniles in Yavapai County. Gress said the budget committee backed out of both issues.
“We need the governor’s office to understand we need that money back,” said Phil Bourdon, county administrator.
Gress said the anticipated 10 percent drop in numbers at the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections hasn’t happened, plus there are new federal compliance regulations affecting staffing ratios.
Arizona is one of two states that took away tuition benefits for National Guard members during the recession. The FY2019 budget includes $1 million to restore those benefits, and $24.1 million to build a new Readiness Training Center in Tucson.
The governor intends to spend $758,000 for a new Pharmaceutical Diversion and Drug Theft Task Force to fund two detective and one sergeant positions and to combat prescription drug abuse and trafficking.
In an effort to increase adoptions of children in foster care, the state will use $15.8 million for adoption subsidies. Guardian, a new child welfare information system, will cost $9.5 million to develop and manage. The Division of Developmental Disabilities program will receive $10.7 million for child evaluation services, client room and board, and case management.
Food banks across the state will receive a share of $1 million in one-time funding to bring more farm-fresh produce to low-income families.
About $6.5 million will go to state parks, but not to any of the state parks in Yavapai County.
The recidivism rate in Arizona prison populations is declining, but the state will add $3.6 million for substance abuse treatment, educational services, and employment training.
The governor also wants the Border Strike Force to receive $2.9 million to pay for 11 trooper positions and 1 sergeant position. At full implementation, there will be an additional 24 state troopers in the Border Strike Force.
An additional $1.4 million is proposed for Wrong Way Driver Night Watch to add 19 state troopers on metropolitan Phoenix freeways. And the governor proposes to spend $25.6 million from the state Highway Fund to provide surface treatments for an additional 3,000 lane-miles.
A 46-page summary of the executive budget is available at the website azgovernor.gov/budget.