On March 10, I attended the Coconino County Board of Supervisors meeting so I know the issues once I am elected as County Supervisor. Of course, I can only be elected with your help!
First on the agenda was a request for additional funding for the High Country Humane Society which the County has previously funded and helped restore. The care of forfeited or abandoned pets is a concern for which the County has a legal and humane responsibility. The request for additional funds brought to light the challenge of balancing competing needs with a limited budget. The Board did approve additional money for the Humane Shelter with the proviso that the Shelter work toward becoming more financially independent and report back to the Board on an annual as opposed to a 3-year period.
The Board and Departments are working on the Fiscal Year 2021 budget. The good news is that sales tax revenues are higher than projected but that is counter-balanced by expenses also being higher. On the bright side, expenses grew slower than revenues. The County is currently funding 75% of its pension liability, which is not good, but Coconino is in a better position than 11 of the 15 counties in Arizona. The County Finance Director presented three projected growth and expense liability scenarios each differing on the year we enter a corrective recession. All scenarios were fiscally conservative, meaning the County is planning now for the future. The budgeting process is more complex, and Patrice Horstman, whom I plan (again with your help) to serve on the Board of Supervisors with, has presented more detail on her Facebook post.
The biggest item of concern was the increase in overtime payroll expenses which has increased 150% since 2015. The County has been keeping pace by leaving positions unfilled. The Jail District is the greatest concern where overtime has increased 21% in three years with no salary savings. The Board is committed to “keeping employees whole”, meaning paying a rate that matches or exceeds cost of living. The challenge comes in 1) the stress placed on employees by consistent over-time and 2) the cost of living in Coconino County.
The County Manager and Departments are all working together and will finalize the FY 2021 budget and maintain the 10-year budget management plan on-time. I’ll keep an eye on this work!
The County has already initiated action on the Covid19 virus and has been working ahead of its arrival here. Today, March 11, the County is hosting a session with healthcare professionals on those steps already taken and planned to combat the virus, and how the cooperation between different health care facilities will happen. Because of the forward-thinking of our County Health Services, we are in a better place than many other states and communities.
As I continue with the campaign and my work to prepare myself for the job of County Supervisor, I need your support. Please contribute to help with my campaign expenses.