Maricopa County unanimously adopts $2.4B budget

0629Ns News (Maricopa County)

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors has unanimously adopted its final fiscal year 2017 budget on June 20.

The $2.356 billion budget, an increase of $116.8 million (5.2 percent) from fiscal year 2016, adds funding for more criminal justice and public safety, including a new juvenile court, 13 adult probation staff – with a possibility of 12 more as needed – and increased prosecution costs, including more than $1 million for child abuse, sexual assault, and strangulation exams.

“This budget follows a conservative fiscal path that the board has embraced for many years,” stated Clint Hickman, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, in a press release. “I asked my fellow board members to endorse a budget process that continued to encourage collaboration, but that also emphasized fiscal restraint. While the economy is still in a growth mode, we must prepare for the eventuality of a slow down or recession.”

Continued focus on justice and public safety

More than half of the total budget is for public safety and criminal justice. It includes one additional Juvenile Court to address the increase in juvenile court cases.

Several capital improvement projects are planned, such as the continued funding to replace the aging Durango Jail and intake center, which will significantly reduce time and costs of inmate transfers and relocations.

Four courtrooms will be added to the East Court Building, and construction on the Southwest Regional Justice Center will finish this year. An adaptive reuse project on the Madison Street Jail is also planned.

“In the past eight years the population of Maricopa County has grown by four hundred-thousand people,” sated Supervisor Denny Barney, District 1, in the release. “Yet we have been able to shrink our jail population through innovative programs. Our budget has to respond to the demands of the justice system. Right now, that means more court rooms and probation officers.”

State cost shifts eased temporarily

Since 2008, the County has paid more than $302 million in mandated cost shifts or direct contributions to the State as a result of legislative action to balance the state budget. The shifts are cost-sharing for the State Department of Juvenile Corrections and the State Department of Revenue, as well as Superior and Justice Court salary increases.

In fiscal year 2017, that cost is projected to be $31.1 million, the release stated. While there has been one-time relief provided by the State in this year’s cost-sharing for Juvenile Corrections ($4.8 million) and Highway User Revenue Funds – HURF ($4.2 million), the County has worked these costs into the final budget because they are likely to return next year and going forward.

“For the first time in eight years, the Legislature has given us some relief from mandated-costs, and we’re grateful for that,” stated Chairman Hickman in the release. “Since it is one-time money, however, we must presume those costs will come back in the future. I look forward to continuing these discussions with the State on this issue.”

Judgment order (Melendres v. Arpaio)

The total operating costs at MCSO for implementation of the order for fiscal year 2017 are projected to be $10.2 million (there is a reduction of more than $4 million for moving overtime from this cost center back to the General Fund).

The cost of the court monitor is projected to be $3 million, which brings the total budgeted for FY 2017 to $13.2 million. These costs include: training, outreach meetings, data collection and analysis software and hardware, development and implementation of an early intervention system, and bi-lingual pay.

“Maricopa County is court-ordered to pay the costs of compliance for the Melendres judgment order so we don’t have a choice there,” stated Supervisor Steve Gallardo, District 5, in the release.

“But we do have the ability to hold the Sheriff’s office accountable for where that money is going. If we’re spending millions and the court appointed monitor says we’re only 30 percent in compliance, there are some tough questions the Sheriff’s office needs to answer. The taxpayers’ money is much better spent on flood-control improvements, and other unfunded projects, as well as salary increases for county employees who went without a raise last year. So I’m pleased to see that there is an item for pay-for-performance funding in this budget.”

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