By Linda Kor —
The heads of various Navajo County departments went before the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday for budget hearings and to discuss department expectations for fiscal year 2013.
Finance Director James Menlove opened the discussion by stating that the county looks to be finishing this budget year in the black by just over $206,000. He noted that revenues have been close to what was anticipated without any decline.
Although no figures were presented, Menlove informed the board that he anticipates no significant changes over last year’s budget of $113 million, with $38 million set aside for the general fund. “The actual spending from the general fund came to $29 million, allowing for some carry-over,” explained Menlove. He stated that for fiscal year 2013, the Truth and Taxation rate will be kept flat with anticipated small growth in sales tax revenues. Capital projects for the coming year include the $5 million allocation for the addition and renovation to the Holbrook jail facility. Aside from that project, there are no additional improvements planned to the facilities.
Board members will decide whether to go ahead with the new bond financing required for the jail projects at their June 12 meeting, and encourage the public to attend the meeting with any questions or concerns they have regarding the matter.
Menlove projects approximately $29.6 million in general fund revenues, with a general fund budget of approximately $31 million in expenditures for the coming fiscal year.
As department heads reported to the board, they stated that there would be no significant change in their individual budgets over the previous year with the exception of the 2.5 percent wage restoration that was approved last December.
One item of concern that was addressed several times was the need to upgrade and purchase computer equipment for the county complex. It was noted by Menlove that this will be the fifth year without any expense for technological improvements. “We’ll need to pull out some band-aids for the coming year,” stated Menlove.
County Manager Jimmy Jayne added that there has been no computer replacement program for a number of years, and that money will eventually need to be expended so that computers will be able to run current software.
As department heads and elected officials addressed the board, they also noted plans for improvements in the areas of service and efficiency that they hope to implement. One measure presented by Assessor Cammy Darris was that in an effort to cut back on costly training programs, she would be sending employees to other counties to observe programs that may be used at her office.
Superior Court Judge Michaela Ruechel informed the board that 103,000 documents have been digitalized for improved efficiency in handling criminal cases. The courts are also now offering e-citation, where fines can be paid online, allowing for both convenience of the individual paying the fine and the improved use of time for the employee.
County Attorney Brad Carlyon reported that his department has seen a decrease in attorneys with an increase in cases. “This has forced all of us to become more innovative. The newest concept is early resolution court that will try to resolve cases in 30 to 45 days,” stated Carlyon, who explained that cases now take an average of six months to a year to resolve, even though the outcome has already been determined. It was explained that this concept will provide a better offer for the defendant up front with a shorter time frame in which to accept the deal.
Carlyon believes that by following this method, up to 60 percent of the caseload can be resolved in 30 days. “Each of my attorneys carry 125 to 150 cases each. An attorney cannot do justice to the defendant for the system in this situation,” he stated, adding that he anticipated beginning the program on July 1. He also informed the board that he will be promoting community outreach in order to locate more resources for programs. He anticipates that the victim grants from the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission will remain at the same amount, as well as the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants.
Recorder Laurette Justman reported that her department is working to increase the number of registered voters, which currently stands at approximately 58,000. “I will see that a satellite office will be opened at the White Mountain facility and I want to see if we can get permission to set up voter registration at Walmart,” she stated. Justman also added that a mass mailer will be going out to inform voters of the new redistricting lines.
Chief Deputy Randy Weems of the sheriff’s office reported that the department is planning to go to web-based records requests, as well as web-based and mobile visitation for inmates and their families. Weems explained, “It’s important, especially in these rural areas, that families and inmates are able to have contact.”
Treasurer Manny Hernandez informed the board that cost saving measures for his department will include three of his six employees moving to a reduced 32-hour week in the summer months, providing a savings of approximately $6,000 that will go toward paying for temporary help needed during the department’s high volume period. He reported that the county’s investments are remaining steady, without any loses or gains. “Safety is the first priority. Nothing will change for awhile and it’s a struggle, but safety first,” he said.
Buildings and Grounds Director Dan Hinz reported that despite the challenges of aging facilities, his department has been able to reduce its budget by $20,000. “We are doing repairs in-house with a slight increase in utilities, gas, water and sewer, but we are still able to reduce our overall budget,” said Hinz.
In other action May 22, the board:
* Approved an intergovernmental agreement between the sheriff’s office and the Navajo County Community College District for the Northern Arizona Law Enforcement Training Academy (NALETA) in Taylor to provide Arizona POST peace officer certification for students sponsored by a law enforcement agency.
The participating agencies will provide and compensate instructors, with students responsible for the costs incurred in connection with the program. The program is for two semesters at a cost of a $100 program fee and a $35 media fee per semester.
Students sponsored by the sheriff’s office will be reimbursed the $270 tuition fee associated with the courses upon completion of the program.
* Approved a request by the county assessor’s office for redemption of waiver for 32 properties.
* Approved precinct-based elections for the Woodruff Domestic Water Improvement District and the Pinetop-Lakeside Sanitary District, both to be held on Nov. 6, to elect two positions for each district, each with a four-year term beginning Jan. 1, 2013, and ending Dec. 31, 2016.
* Approved a memorandum of understanding between the Arizona Department of Public Safety and the sheriff’s office establishing procedures for using the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance decals and using the associated ASPEN software.
* Approved the appointments of Robert Van Wyck and Robert Donfeld, each as justice of the peace judge pro tempores.
* Authorized the application for Fill the Gap funding for fiscal year 2013.
* Authorized the application for state funding for the Field Trainer Grant for fiscal year 2013.
* Approved the naming of an existing road in the Heber/Overgaard area High Pine Loop.
* Authorized an application for extension of premises/patio permit for the Wild Women Saloon and Grill for the Bluegrass Music Festival scheduled June 8-10.
* Approved the extension of the existing delegation agreement between the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and the county regarding the installation of septic systems for one year until June 2013.
* Approved a liquor license application for Dian Hunter for the Pine Meadows Country Club in Overgaard.
* Approved an intergovernmental agreement between the Navajo County Public Health Services District and the Arizona Department of Health Services for the renewal of the Smoke Free Arizona contract from July 1 to June 30, 2013, providing an annual amount of $83,194.
* Approved a resolution pertaining to the county Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan 2011.
* Approved Community Development Block Grant projects from the Department of Housing totaling $424,800 and CDBG certifications.
* Approved a resolution of commitment to further the Fair Housing Policy.
* Approved an award of contract to Canyon Pipe and Supply, Inc. for the supply and delivery of culverts and bands.