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Maricopa County Budget Plans for Public Safety Issues

Maricopa County Budget Plans for Public Safety Issues

Monday morning, May 19, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the FY 2015 Tentative Budget. The budget is $2,211,128,982 which is $8,575,681 lower than the FY 2014 Budget. The operating budget went up slightly, with offsets in capital and technology spending. There is significant pressure on the budget as more than 50% of the costs are public safety, and volumes are increasing.

In order to handle the increased workload in the justice system, this budget will add three new court divisions, market–based salary increases for deputies and probation officers, new resources for prosecution and defense, and increases in the number of adult and juvenile probation staff. There are additional expenditures for detention operations in the jails as the inmate population continues to climb.

As the economy recovers, the county is cautiously optimistic about revenue growth. Maricopa County is estimating growth in sales and vehicle licenses taxes between 4.5% and 6.0%. Property taxes are expected to grow by $32.5 million, but the tax levy will be $50 million below the property tax level prior to the recessionary reductions in property values. The county will be $162.9 million or 26.9% below the maximum levy. Again, growth in our revenues is being utilized for public safety expenses.

The budget was developed using a data-based approach. All new requests underwent a rigorous review and had to be justified with results-oriented information. The Cradles to Crayon pilot program for the juvenile court was included in the budget because of the positive outcomes that were documented for children involved. Zero-based budget reviews were completed for many of our large departments including the County Attorney’s Office and Public Defense Services. This allowed the County Supervisors to take a fresh look at all costs and to be assured that our taxpayers are getting a good value for the services provided.

Finally, this budget restored structural balance to the general fund. This means that reoccurring revenues exceed reoccurring expenditures. Reserves and contingency funds are included for when an economic downturn occurs.

Board Chairman Denny Barney said, “This is a budget that emphasizes Criminal Justice and Public Safety, by funding our statutory mandates. We haven’t lost sight of the fact that it’s not our money; it’s the taxpayers’ money. Alongside our elected county leaders and management staff, this budget reflects our collective vision for the county’s strategic priorities.”

Supervisor Steve Chucri said that, “We collaborated with other county elected officials to shape a conservative budget that reflects our needs, not our wants. Everyone came together, understanding that the criminal justice system is complex and has long-standing needs that must be addressed.”

Supervisor Andy Kunasek said that, “I believe this budget is good for the taxpayers and builds a solid foundation for the future.”

Supervisor Clint Hickman emphasized the importance of properly funding the criminal justice system and said, “51% of our budget goes directly to criminal justice. The county budget reflects the complexity and ripple effects of the justice system. All are tied together: investigation and enforcement, prosecution, victims’ services, probation, defense costs, and incarceration. It must be a highly functioning system. Our citizens expect nothing less.”

Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox stated, “I am proud of the fiscally responsible way Maricopa County has operated for so many years. Today’s budget continues in that tradition. We are structurally balanced and have been for nearly two decades. We don’t use red ink or wishful thinking when we prepare our budgets.”

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