June 21 - July 4, 2014
Letters to the editor
County facing ﬁnancial issues head on BY DENNY BARNEY
On June 23, Maricopa County supervisors will adopt a $2.2 billion budget for the ﬁscal year that begins July 1. I see four things about this budget that really will stand Denny Barney. Submitted out as positives and photo a couple worrisome trends looming, that if we don’t follow closely could cause us problems in the future. First, the good news: • Overall spending is actually down. Maricopa County will spend less next year than this year. The total County budget will be $2.211 billion, which is $8.6 million less than the current year. And this year’s budget is about $70 million lower than last year’s budget. • Let me share with you a single statistic: 93 percent of all County spending springs from mandates—services required by federal, state, constitutional or court-ordered provisions—or administrative support for these mandated services. The supervisors don’t go around looking for pet projects. We are keenly aware that we are stewards of the taxpayers’ money. The 7 percent that is not mandated is comprised of services Maricopa County residents have asked for, such as check enforcement, County parks and support for mainly grant-funded programs, such as Head Start. • For the ﬁrst time, Maricopa County has implemented zero-based budgeting. County Attorney Bill Montgomery and I ﬁrst discussed this as a way to build our budgets from the ground up, with departments justifying all their spending, rather than just justifying changes from the previous year. This way, departments set priorities and focus on their
key strategic goals. County Manager Tom Manos expanded the concept to include several other agencies, mostly in criminal justice and public safety. Because the process went so well this year, more departments have been asked to use zero-based budgeting next year. • This year’s budget allocates $60 million for cash reserves. We believe it is prudent to build those cash reserves back up because the economy is still unpredictable and it is sound ﬁnance to always be prepared for the future. I did mention, though, that there are a couple of things that worry me on the horizon: • Yes, the economy has improved. The national unemployment rate is back down to 6.3 percent, a tad higher in Arizona. But the good old days of brisk economic expansion and escalating property values resulting in rising government revenues are gone. We have to adjust to this new reality of modest revenue growth and apply the same discipline in the good years as we have in the down years. Unfortunately, I don’t see revenues rising back to previous levels any time soon, so we must continue to plan accordingly. • In addition, more than 51 percent of our budget is allocated to criminal justice and public safety and the service needs in these areas are growing. For example, in the public defender’s ofﬁce, a capital murder case costs more than $500,000 if it goes to trial. In contrast, a noncapital case is less than $30,000. As volumes and backlog grow, it gets costly. Even though Arizona is a great place to live, we still face numerous challenges. In Maricopa County, we are trying to face these issues head on so we never are caught by surprise. Denny Barney is a Gilbert resident and chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.
Abandoned home problematic to neighborhood Dear editor, Attached you will ﬁnd pictures of a house abandon by the owner, the bank and the Ocotillo Homeowners Association. The yard has not been cared for in the last six months. There was an attempt at the end of April to mow down the weeds by someone (caused major allergies in our home for three days). On the advice of a lawyer, we (neighbor and I) stopped mowing the front and trimming the trees and bushes in January of this year. The gate is ﬁnally locked after an entire year of being left unlocked. The house was open with the back sliding glass door left unlocked (I had a person looking to bid on the house in early February lock the sliding glass door).
A problem is we can’t add chemicals to the pool water left in the pool. Mosquitoes are more evident in the area. God forbid a case of West Nile virus affects the neighborhood this summer. We have witnessed what appears to be individuals canvassing the home. Intent unknown but when we approach, they quickly leave. Our suspicion is they might remove the copper and interior ﬁxtures. Why doesn’t anyone seem to care? The Ocotillo HOA seems at a loss and unable to provide the necessary services to at least maintain the front of the house. The bank has an unreal expectation on value. Now we are getting yard signs placed in the front “We buy homes for cash.” Really? Oh well I got, this off my chest. I don’t expect anything to come of this email. Sincerely, Brent Stark Chandler
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