The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors tentatively approves a $2.5 billion fiscal 2018 budget.
The Arizona Legislature may have caught Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone by surprise a few weeks ago by whacking funding for gang enforcement.
But the county Board of Supervisors is set to give the Sheriff’s Office a $10 million budget boost, largely to buy equipment such as Tasers and to recruit detention officers, according to a plan unveiled Monday.
The board is scheduled to vote on a proposed $2.5 billion county budget that raises spending modestly and includes no tax increases. Members of the public will be able to comment before a final vote June 19.
“We’re stuck in the middle between the Legislature and the real world. And we have to figure out how to (meet our obligations) without raising taxes inordinately,” said board Chairman Denny Barney, a Gilbert Republican. “We’re trying to live within our means.”
Maricopa County analysts expect slightly more tax revenues in 2017-18 because of the improving economy. But board members don’t want to spend too generously, Barney said.
“Right now, everybody says the economy’s healing, so we should give all these raises,” he said. But “we don’t want to have a government that’s grown inappropriately during the good times that can’t be managed during the bad times. … (Government) is like a voluminous gas. It will occupy whatever space you give it.”
Instead of across-the-board raises to its roughly 14,000 employees, Maricopa County will give “pay for performance” bumps to high performers, while adjusting salary ranges in some departments and filling vacancies in others. No layoffs are planned.
The Sheriff’s Office is hoping to spend a portion of its new money on raises for detention officers to slow turnover, which has led to spiking overtime costs.
“We can keep paying 4 to 5 million dollars in overtime or we can fill these vacancies,” Barney said. “We may spend more (to hire officers), but we’ll save money overall.”
Last year, former Sheriff Joe Arpaio refused to hike compensation for detention officers, instead deciding to keep the controversial, nearly empty Tent City jail open.
Penzone has pledged to close Tent City and plow the savings back into the Sheriff’s Office.
Other departments receiving significant budget boosts include the Medical Examiner’s Office, court and probation agencies and the county’s technology department.
Meanwhile, the county’s animal shelter is expecting slightly less funding as pet-license fees decline. And the Human Services Department, which assists homeless people and low-income residents, could grapple with cuts from state and federal grants.
But additional money for construction projects will flow to the animal shelter, as well as roads, parks, jail, courts and other agencies.
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