By Tammy Gray
The budget for the upcoming fiscal year 2014-15 has not been formally reviewed or approved by the board of supervisors, but a tentative budget for Navajo County includes a two-percent pay increase for employees while keeping spending flat in all other respects.
According to Government Relations Administrator Hunter Moore, take-home pay for some county employees has been reduced by nearly 15 percent due to increases in health insurance and retirement plan costs, and stagnant pay rates. For other employees, that reduction has been around 3.6 percent. Between 2008 and 2011, county employees took a 2.5 percent pay cut to help balance the budget.
Supervisors reviewed the budget for each department during a recent work session, but did not take any action. Budgeted expenditures remain nearly the same as last year at around $39.9 million for the general fund, with the exception of pay increases.
The 2014-15 budget includes an anticipated increase in state and county sales tax revenues. That increase is estimated conservatively at three percent. So far in the current fiscal year, sales tax revenues have exceeded expectations, however, the amount by which they top estimates fluctuates from month to month.
The proposed budget also includes a substantial reduction of $2.1 million to general fund revenues. The county anticipates that it will not receive a $1.4 million payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) from the federal government in the upcoming fiscal year. Federal legislators did not approve continuing the funding in future years, and it is unclear whether they will approve a payment for the upcoming fiscal year. PILT funding was initially intended to compensate local governments for untaxable federal lands within their districts, such as national forests. In addition, the county will not receive the usual $1.2 million in annual funds for housing state and federal inmates in the local jail. Contracts with the Arizona Department of Corrections and the U.S. Marshal’s office have expired. Moore noted that this means that the salaries for sheriff’s office staff in the jail that were previously funded by the contracts will now have to be paid out of the general fund.
The new fiscal year begins July 1 for Navajo County, but the state does not require the county to adopt a final budget until August. Board members are expected to review and consider action on a tentative budget at their next meeting at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, June 24, at the county complex in Holbrook.