County Supervisors adopt $2.2 billion budget for upcoming fiscal year
NORTH VALLEY – Faced with sluggish tax revenues and $32.2 million in state budget impacts, Maricopa County supervisors recently adopted a conservative $2.2 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The budget adds significant new funding for criminal justice, including more prosecutors, probation officers, public defense, and money to replace the existing Durango Jail with a new inmate intake center and jail.
“Our citizens can believe in this conservative budget that reflects our needs, not our wants,” commented Steve Chucri, chairman. “It is a collaborative effort that delivers a strong criminal justice system, invests in the County’s long-term infrastructure needs, and provides quality services.”
The supervisors said they were particularly pleased that the new spending plan “puts our fiscal house in order.” It includes a replacement jail and intake center. In addition to the jail, there will be four new courtrooms in the East Court Building.
“The Board has continued to demonstrate its commitment to fiscal prudence,” commented Supervisor Denny Barney. “This is evidenced by more departments than ever submitting zero-based budgets which increases accountability. The county is also making more shifts to invest in technology which will help reduce employee costs in the long-run.”
Officials described the operating budget and spending for three special districts as “structurally balanced,” with current revenues meeting current spending levels without fund transfers or similar financial gimmicks.
“I am very proud of the conservative policies and prudent decisions put in place in delivering this year’s budget,” said Supervisor Clint Hickman. “With almost 52 percent of this budget dedicated for public safety, we invested in Adult Probation, County Attorney and the Sheriff’s Office, to make sure justice is served more quickly.”
According to County Manager Tom Manos, seven departments received budget increases from the current year, all of them in public safety and criminal justice. He said 40 other departments kept their budgets flat or made cuts.
“First and foremost, Maricopa County remains on solid financial ground with today’s balanced budget and our long-term debt remains among the lowest in the nation,” stated Supervisor Andy Kunasek. “Despite the multi-million dollar shifts and new state mandates, Maricopa County has been able to deliver quality services for our constituents in a fiscally sound way.”
The county will spend an additional $13.9 million, totaling $32.2 million next year in state-mandated cost shifts and direct contributions to the state as a result of legislative action to balance the state budget. The county has absorbed $269 million from the state in adverse budget impacts.
The total budget is $2,234,405,833 for FY 2016 with nearly 52 percent going to public safety and criminal justice. This includes the sheriff’s office, the county attorney, Superior Court, adult and juvenile probation, and public defense.
“This was my first county budget process and it was surprisingly smooth,” said District 5 Supervisor Steve Gallardo. “It was very different, much more inclusive, than at the legislature. I feel we came up with a fair budget. We added much needed positions to important judicial functions and balanced the budget.”
The supervisors and budget officials agreed to add general fund money into the detention fund, depleted in recent years by slower growing jail sales tax revenues. That will allow the county to replace the aging Durango Jail, which opened in 1976 and houses about 1,700 inmates. The jail will also house a new intake center, currently located within the 4th Avenue Jail in downtown. The county will build the replacement jail with current funds as it continues to follow its modified “pay-as-you-go” policy for capital construction.
While the economy continues to improve, budget analysts suggest a return to the double digit revenue growth of previous decades is not likely. Economists advise the county continue its conservative revenue and spending policies.
Other budget highlights:
Adds 30 probation officers for heavier caseloads;
26 new prosecutors and support staff for County Attorney’s Office;
Invests in increased cyber-security protection;
Two new initial appearance courtrooms;
Total budget is $157 million below maximum tax levy.