I’m fortunate to have many great friends and colleagues at the Capitol and I’m pleased to continue to work with the Capitol community in new ways as an elected official of Maricopa County. Because the county’s financial decisions impact millions of people in a variety of important ways, I wanted to share my process in working through budget decisions since taking office in January.
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors recently adopted the budget for the 2014 fiscal year. First and foremost, our $2.2 billion general fund operating budget is actually lower than last year’s, by some $89 million.
Secondly, it comes with an actual reduction in county-controlled property taxes, roughly $32 million less than what the county collected last year. Moreover, Maricopa County remainsfree of general obligation debt.
Arizona’s economic outlook continues to improve, with retail sales, housing values, and other key components of our economy on the rise. However, county revenues — primarily dependent on property taxes — are only marginally higher. There is much to celebrate about Arizona’s continued comeback, but we must remain cautious and responsible when planning for thefuture.
This is why county leaders have launched a top-to-bottom review of our current programming and capital needs. I believe Maricopa County government has many positive attributes, but any business must constantly measure itself and compare its performance against the highest and best, public or private. That’s how we get better. And in today’s world, if you’re not improving, you’re falling behind.
Furthermore, our fiscal conservatism and business-minded approach did not blind us to a troubling turnover issue. The salary and hiring freezes put in place for county employees in 2007 as a result of the economic downturn put greater pressure on our top-performing professionals — especially in public safety, which comprises more than 50 percent of our budget. We made a good first step in ensuring we retain the best of county talent by including performance and market-based adjustments in critical areas for the first time in six years. When you run any business, the principles remain the same — the lynchpin of success is the quality of talent that business employs.
For this fiscal year, we provided for the needs of public safety, focused on our core functions and doing them well, and planned for our long-term economic health. This way, we willhave our county wellpositioned for the future, whatever it may bring.
We will continue the detailed review of operations, especially at our regulatory agencies. We have to make sure our processes are not overly burdensome on businesses or confusing to citizens.
These were not easy budget decisions to make, but the finished product is one that keeps vital services intact without increasing the overall property tax rate on homeowners and businesses.
— Steve Chucri, member, Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, District 2.