In early March, The Arizona Republic reported the state’s budget shortfall is up to $1.2 billion.
How to cope with budget shortfall challenges is a frequent topic at city council, town council and government meetings across the Verde Valley, too.
Add Yavapai County to the list of governments facing uncertain economic times in the first quarter of 2008. County leaders are concerned with keeping the budget under control.
Yavapai County District 3 Supervisor Chip Davis said the shortfall amounts to about $6.4 million this year.
“Yavapai County is experiencing tax revenue shortfalls much like the state and other cities and towns,” County Administrator Julie Ayers said.
Although county agencies have trimmed approximately $1.5 million in the past month, Davis said that won’t be nearly enough.
“They’ve [agency heads] got to take another look. I think it’s better that they decide what to cut than the board,” Davis said.
Ayers said departments have analyzed where to make cuts and will continue to do so.
However, Ayers said the county is now focusing on the creation of the 2008-09 budget and departments may find that budget even tougher than this year’s.
On Jan. 29, Ayers told the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors the county is experiencing a recession.
“We’ve got to cut out unnecessary things,” Davis said from Phoenix on Friday, March 7. “The county should live within its means. It should be as accountable as a private business or a family.”
Asked if shortfalls had to be dealt with now, Davis said it “depends on whose philosophy you use. Mine is that cuts do have to be made now.”
Ayers said that based on need, some county positions can’t go unfilled but otherwise the county has a “hiring chill.”
One major item that cannot be cut is the jail district. Ayers told the board another $1.8 million is needed to keep the jails operating.
“There are not a lot of options there. Violators must be incarcerated. We’re still challenging the jails to come up with better efficiency and service since we’re operating in a deficit,” Davis said.
Craig Sullivan, director of the County Supervisors Association of Arizona, told the Board of Supervisors that to deal with the budget shortfall at the state level, counties may have to bear more of the burden for such costly items as prisoner incarceration.
“They’re contemplating sending more prisoners to our jails,” Davis said.
Davis did not want the county’s financial situation to sound entirely bleak, however.
“Sometimes a controversy can cause people to step back and see how to improve business. We just have to clean it up and make it more efficient,” he said.