By Nick Worth
Navajo County will face a shortfall of more than $300,000 if federal sequestration goes through, according to County Governmental Affairs Director Hunter Moore. He told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday that the impending “fiscal cliff,” which is made up of changes in the tax law and sequestration, would lead to budget cuts across the board in several county programs.
Moore explained that sequestration is the process of applying automatic, across-the-board spending reductions at the federal level. Congress built the sequestration into the Budget Control Act of 2011. The act also set the debt ceiling at $16.5 trillion, and created a committee to come up with $1.2 trillion in budget cuts to stave off sequestration. The committee failed to do so, so sequestration will be put into effect, which will bring about the automatic triggering of $1.2 trillion in cuts with another $984 billion spread evenly over the next nine years. The cuts are scheduled to take place on Jan. 2, 2013.
In all, the sequestration would result in $54.6 billion in cuts for both defense and non-defense funding. The tax law changes refer to the impending end of the Bush era tax cuts.
“It’s hard to predict what is going on right now,” said Moore. He noted that the post-election posturing of the various parties involved in setting the federal budget has led to uncertainty.
According to Moore’s “very preliminary” draft, which is based on Navajo County’s fiscal year 2012 federal expenditures, the county now receives $4,943,695 in federal funding. The amount available after sequestration would drop to $4,618,964, resulting in a cut of $324,731 to the county.
“These are the shoes we know will drop if things don’t change,” said Moore. “There is not a lot of information to go on.”
Moore told the board his figures are meant to serve as only a baseline of what to expect in the event the cuts take place.
He also said sequestration can be avoided, but it will require congressional action. Moore noted that in order to avoid the “fiscal cliff,” Congress would need to pass legislation to postpone the cuts and buy time, and President Obama would have to sign it into law.
If sequestration does go into effect, some programs which would be impacted by the cuts include the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, crime victim assistance, the Workforce Investment Act cluster, reservation roadway maintenance, training and planning grants, library grants, delinquent children and youth education, Special Education cluster, educational technology state grants, mathematics and science partnerships, improving teacher quality state grants, voting access for individuals with disabilities, highway safety cluster, the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) funds, HIV prevention activities and preventive health services, among others.
All programs that received some or all of their funding from federal monies would be cut by anywhere from 7.6 percent to 8.2 percent.
Moore also noted that if sequestration comes into effect, it would also affect the funds the state receives from the federal government.
“Our concern is that the state may then make changes in their support to the counties,” Moore said.
He also noted that the impacts to the Navajo Nation would be funding cuts of about three percent to five percent.
In other action Nov. 13, the board:
* Approved the assessment and tax roll corrections for data tax year 2012.
* Approved a lease agreement for the Navajo County Penrod facility between the county, and the Arts Alliance of the White Mountains, Inc. and the White Mountain Life Church, Inc.
* Transferred Navajo County Parcel Number 309-52-015A by quit claim deed.
* Named an existing road in the Show Low/Linden area “Pioneer Trail.”
* Approved contracts for services as a planning and zoning/code enforcement hearing officer; for a professional services agreement with TGI Systems for NCIS/Web database updates; and for engagement of the law offices of Patrick J. Cunningham, LLC regarding the Catalyst Paper Corporation.
* Approved the sending of sympathy letters to Debra Chapman and the family of the late Show Low Councilman Gerry Whipple; and a letter to Julia Lee regarding her recent report to the board.
* Recognized retired employee Nancy McAllester.
* Recognized Lou Tobin of the Information Technology (IT) Department, Michael Sandoval of Facility Maintenance, Christine Starns, a Buildings and Grounds custodian, and Deputy Shawn Willoughby for their excellence in personal performance far exceeding organizational expectations.
* Heard a United Way presentation by Christine Pierce. She noted that United Way is celebrating its 125th year, and the Northern Arizona United Way Chapter is celebrating its 45th year.
* Approved an interim agreement with North Country Health Care for inmate medical care.
* Approved an amended intergovernmental agreement between Navajo County, the Navajo County Library District and the White Mountain Apache Tribe concerning the possible award of State Grants in Aid for Construction for a library building just west of McNary in Navajo County.
* Approved expending no more than $24,000 from District I Navajo Nation Road Partnership Project funding for the crushing and excavating of red dog material at Peabody Western Coal Company.
* Approved expenditure of no more than $25,000 from District I Special Road Funds to support labor and hauling expenses related to the red dog project.
* Gave personnel Service Awards to nine employees. Five-Year Awards were given to Teresa Cameron, Timothy Norton, Shaun Hughes, Mike Stump and Kimberly Willis. Ten-Year Awards went to Amy Stradling and Linda Larson. Lea Land received a 15-year award, and Beverly Paddock was recognized for 20 years of service.
* Approved reimbursement of a Public Works expenditure in the amount of $19,251.19 from District II Navajo Nation Road Partnership Project funding for the hauling of millings provided by the Arizona Depart-ment of Transportation (ADOT) to Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) public roads in the White Cone area.
* Approved expenditure of no more than $45,391.56 in District IV Special Road Funds to be utilized for winter storm road repairs in the Timberland Acres Special Road District No. 1.
* Approved expenditure of no more than $151,021 in District V Special Road Funds to assist the Town of Pinetop-Lakeside with road improvements on Woodland Road and Woodland Lake Road.
* Approved Task Agreement No. 10 to the memorandum of agreement between the BIA, Fort Apache Agency, and Navajo County for the purchase of 7,500 gallons of diesel fuel for no more than $35,000 from District V Special Road Funds.
* Awarded a $187,812.30 contract for the purchase of one or more conventional 10-wheel dump trucks to Freightliner Sterling Western Star of Arizona.
* Approved the memorandum of understanding, roles and responsibilities for cooperative management of the Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project.
* Moved the regularly scheduled Dec. 18 Board of Supervisors meeting to Dec. 11.
* Approved all properties sold as auctioned on the back tax land online auction, and approved allowing the Clerk of the Board to sell the unsold properties over the counter for the amount due.
* Acting as the Navajo County Health District Governing Board, approved a contract with the Arizona Partnership for Immunization (TAPI) to bill for vaccine services.
Acting as the Board of Equalization, the board:
* Approved appeals from three property owners to re-classify their property to class three properties (owner occupied), waived the assessed penalties and liens related to this recent reclassification action, and asked the county assessor to re-classify the properties to Class Three (owner occupied).
* Heard taxpayer notices of change for five properties.
John Papa told the board the valuation of his property in the Snowflake Industrial Park came in at $40 per square foot, as opposed to other similar buildings in the area which are valued at an average of $17 per square foot. The county assessor’s office indicated it would lower the valuation of the property from $451,000 to $322,000. After discussion, board members moved to lower Papa’s property valuation to $19 per square foot for a total valuation of $163,000.
Theresa Aland requested a change to Class Three (owner occupied) for four parcels of property comprising 40 acres she occupies on Woodruff Hay Hollow Road. After discussion, the board denied Aland’s request and left her valuation at 10 acres owner occupied (a valuation of 10 percent) and the remaining 30 acres of her land at the current rate of 16 percent.
County Assessor Cammy Darris told the board her office was lowering valuations on three other proper-ties, and the board approved those actions.
By Nick Worth