By Chase Kamp
San Manuel Miner
Adhering to a pledge not to raise property taxes, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors adopted a tentative fiscal year 2013-14 budget of $373,723,558 at its regular meeting on June 6, resulting in about $7 million less in collected property tax revenue. The Board also neglected a budget overage request by Sheriff Paul Babeu, though public safety represents 63 percent of total budget expenditures.
Property taxes for the coming year are based on real estate sales from 2010 and 2011, when property values were still declining.
Highlights of the budget also included funding for phase two of Hunt Highway completion, the extension of Ironwood/Gantzel Road and the continued surfacing of dirt roads and pavement preservation projects.
After the Board voted down his $12.1 million proposal in April, Babeu said he worked to return with a pared request of $2.75 million. The request, which died for lack of a motion, allotted additional funds for improved pay for sworn staff, holiday pay and replacement vehicles.
Babeu argued that in unincorporated areas of Pinal, PCSO has less than half of the staffing per population compared to Apache Junction police. He also said the county needs to have more competitive wages to combat 22 percent attrition on the force.
The Board voiced appreciation for the Sheriff’s truncated proposal and his effort to help deputies, but all were mum when the item came to a vote. Supervisor Anthony Smith explained he could not support the measure as Pinal meets state averages in sworn officers per 10,000 residents and crime rate.
“It’s a matter of not being able to afford it, this year especially,” he said.
In a 3-2 vote, the Board also voted down a budget management proposal by county attorney Lando Voyles that would allow elected department heads to roll over annual savings to the following year’s budget in a reserve sub-account.
Voyles argued the measure would give elected officials incentive to save money. Supervisor Pete Rios pointed to a previous failed effort by Babeu to pass a similar measure at the state legislature. Smith feared the move would create unregulated silos of tax dollars.
County budget leaders were also disapproving. Budget director Leo Lew said it would severely complicate the budget process.
“It opens the door for conflict with Arizona Revised Statutes and bad financial management,” Lew told the Board.
The final budget, slated for review later this month, can be the same amount presented or lower, as the adopted budget cannot be higher than the tentative budget by law.
Supervisors approve $373.7 million tentative budget