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Maricopa County budget maximizes resources, delivers promises

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You shouldn’t have to pay a lot in taxes to get a responsive, forward-thinking government. That’s why my colleagues and I just approved a budget for 2019 that decreases county spending year-over-year without sacrificing service.

Again this year, the tax rate is flat. There’s no increase. Even as our population grows at the fastest rate in the country.

In the upcoming fiscal year, we’ll bring in $146 million less in taxes than we’re allowed by state statute. That’s more money in your pockets.

We can spend less as a county because we are being more efficient.

Steve Chucri

Steve Chucri

The county’s physical footprint is nearly 10 percent larger than it was in 2011, but our electricity use has decreased by 14 percent.

Sometimes we have to get creative to save money. For example, we are repurposing an old jail into office space our attorneys can use. We are also moving staff who are currently in leased buildings into buildings we own. As we end leases, we save on rent.

Part of being efficient is resolving issues of the past.

This spring, we settled the dispute with the Arizona Diamondbacks not just because we want a long future for professional baseball in Arizona, but because we think there are better ways to spend money than on lawyers’ fees. The agreement also gets taxpayers out of the stadium management business.

We are doing everything in our power to bring the Sheriff’s Office into compliance with the court order in the Melendres case that is costing taxpayers millions of dollars every year. The 2019 budget includes 26 additional staff to work on this and this alone.

A reliable, fair, and accessible criminal justice system is a cornerstone of any great community and so 54 percent of our budget is allocated for public safety. That is the heart of what we do.

We don’t have to spend money to make a difference. Working with public, private, and nonprofit partners, we can provide better service to residents who need it the most. This is our approach to reducing repeat offenders in our jails, addressing homelessness, and combating public health crises like the opioid epidemic.

We can also make a difference by leading out on issues that affect our entire region. Issues that sometimes need someone behind a podium banging a fist and demanding action, or someone behind the scenes building consensus to push a good idea forward. I understand those aren’t line items in a budget, but they are absolutely a part of my vision for Maricopa County going forward.

I believe government can help improve your quality of life without being involved in every part of your life. And without always asking you for more money.

As a Valley native, I know Maricopa County residents want to live in safe communities with a responsive government and a low tax burden. The budget we just passed is all about maximizing our resources to deliver on those promises for taxpayers.

— Steve Chucri is chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. 

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The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.

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