La Paz County has approved a $4.16 million tentative budget for fiscal year 2022-23. The approval came at the Board of Supervisors’ July 18 meeting. It must now be published for two weeks before it can be formally adopted by the Board.
County Administrator Megan Spielman thanked the consultants and department heads who had worked on the budget. Coming off the financial crisis that was reported early in 2021, she said they have the county much closer to being on a sound financial footing.
“Over this past year, county leadership and employees have shown we have the courage and the discipline to hold the line and stick to the new habits and changes we’ve made to our business practices,” she said. “We’ve made it through the disruption and discomfort to ensure this county is operating property. The work we have done allows the county to build a strong foundation for our future.”
In a slide as part of a Power Point presentation, consultant Vanessa Burke of the Pun Group listed some of the accomplishments of the previous fiscal year. They included:
- The Supervisors approving a realistic, balanced budget with quarterly reports on the county’s financial status.
- Implemented a new credit card policy and provided oversight and guidance to departments on credit card use.
- Actively monitoring cash accounts to make sure special funds aren’t used for general fund expenses.
- Worked with Parker Accounting to stabilize their payroll system.
- Addressed long-term budget savings by consolidating the justice courts.
Revenues for the general fund are estimated at $16.75 million, while expenditures are budgeted at $18.1 million. Applying a positive fund balance from FY 2021-22 will result in a positive balance of $1.5 million.
Property tax revenue makes up the highest percentage of general fund revenue at 24 percent. The total levy for FY 2022-23 has been reduced from $5.6 million to $4.13 million, but this is a one-time reduction. By state law, overpayments on the judgement bonds in the Yakima case must be applied to reduce property taxes for the following fiscal year.
The judgement bonds have been paid off, and the special sales tax ended Dec. 31, 2021. The excess payments on the bonds will be used to lower county taxes in FY 2022-23, but they will return to their previous levels in FY 2023-24.
District 2 Supervisor Duce Minor has expressed frustration that the tax reduction could not be spread out over a number of years. He said doing it all in one fiscal year will cause “ups and downs” for county property owners.
As for other general fund revenue, the major sources are “transfers in” at 19 percent and shared state sales tax revenue at 12 percent.
Of general fund expenditures, 52.4 percent are for legal, judicial or public safety agencies. The Sheriff’s Office is budgeted for 34 percent of expenditures.
Overall, 68.4 percent of the general fund is budgeted for employee wages and benefits, including a 2 percent Cost of Living Adjustment. The total for wages and benefits comes to $21.2 million.
The county is also estimating $15 million in special revenue funds. These are funds that are designated for a specific purpose and cannot be used for anything else. One of the concerns of the consultants who found the county’s general fund was insolvent in 2021 was special funds were being used to cover general fund expenses, which is illegal under state law.
The biggest source of special funds is Highway User Revenue Funds, which come from the state’s fuel tax. These funds must be used for transportation purposes. The Public Works Department is scheduled to receive $6.24 million in HURF funds in FY 2022-23.
Another major recipient of special funds is the County Health Department. They are set to receive $2.13 million in special funds, mostly for their immunization, coronavirus and public outreach and education programs.