Jun 222012

Graph courtesy of the County Supervisors Association -- Since fiscal year 2007-08, Navajo County has had to absorb more than $5.8 million in cost shifts implemented by the state legislature. Although some county revenue sources are beginning to recover, such as state shared sales tax and county sales tax, the Navajo County budget is still expected to be lean in the coming fiscal year due to the ongoing state cost shifts, as well as increasing retirement and insurance contributions.

By Tammy Gray —

“We expect to end up about $210,000 in the black at the end of this fiscal year,” said Navajo County Manager Jimmy Jayne. “That’s based on general fund revenues and expenses through the first half of June.”

Jayne explained that the budget has been very tight over the last fiscal year, which ends June 30, and it took a concerted effort to stay out of the red.

“With the cooperation of elected officials, working together we’ve been able to maintain a balanced budget,” he remarked.

According to Jayne, some revenue sources have fared better than last fiscal year, but the increase was out-paced by both increased employee benefit costs and cost shifts by the state. He noted that state shared revenue is 3.3 percent greater than fiscal year 2010-11, and county sales tax revenues are up by 6.76 percent for the same time period.

“It is good news. But any revenue gains are being more than eaten up by the increased costs to the county,” he said.

Insurance and retirement costs for employees have steadily increased, and in addition, the Arizona Legis-lature has placed a greater financial burden on counties in order to balance the state budget. Jayne noted that since fiscal year 2007-08, Navajo County has had to absorb $5.8 million in cost shifts by the state. The im-pact for the upcoming 2012-13 fiscal year is expected to be around $1.8 million. In addition to state shifts, revenues have generally decreased over the last few years.

“The revenues are going up some, but with the impacts we’ve had to absorb, we’re going to have to con-tinue to keep the budget very tight,” Jayne explained.

A final budget for fiscal year 2012-13 is still being prepared, but Jayne noted that the county is going to have to make up for a loss of $746,000 in Highway User Revene Funds (HURF), as well as $550,000 in county assistance funds. According to Jayne, overcoming the loss of the county assistance fund, which comes from state lottery proceeds, is especially difficult because the money is part of the general fund.

Other anticipated state impacts to the county’s 2012-13 fiscal year budget include a reduction in state funding for inmates at the Arizona State Hospital, as well as for restoration to competency, a reduction in the state’s share of salaries for justices of the peace and a reduction in funding for attorney services for indigent defendants.

Statewide, the impact to counties is expected to be $43.1 million for the 2012-13 fiscal year. According to the County Supervisors Association, that total is down from an initial estimate of $93 million. The change is due to the repeal of a proposed prisoner shift, eliminating a shift of some remaining HURF funds to the Motor Vehicle Department (MVD) and elimination of mandated county contributions to the state budget.

Jayne noted that the cost shifts from the state have made it difficult for Navajo County to maintain a bal-anced budget.

“We’ve worked with the departments to come up with a plan,” he said.

A budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year will be presented to the county supervisors at their first meeting in July, which is set for 9 a.m. on Tuesday, July 10.