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Budget Offers Counties Some Relief

Credit: County Supervisors Association of AZ

By Rebekah L. Sanders for The Arizona Republic

Arizona counties will continue struggling to fix roads, staff sheriff patrols and make payroll next year because the state has pinched their revenue since the Great Recession. But the Arizona Legislature’s budget for next year offers some relief.

Counties will fork over about $32M to help balance the state budget that Gov. Doug Ducey was expected to sign this week.

The hit to counties includes payments they will be required to make to support state agencies such as the Departments of Revenue and Juvenile Corrections, and cuts to shared revenues like the gas tax that counties previously received from the state.

The silver lining: The impact on counties of this year’s state cost shifts is about $20M less than local officials feared.

“The counties are grateful for the relief that the Legislature and governor provided,” said Craig Sullivan, executive director of the County Supervisors Association of Arizona.

Some Relief for Counties

The relief to counties includes:

  • $10M in ongoing funding from gas taxes and license fees from the Highway User Revenue Fund.
  • $8M in one-time assistance for cost shifts related to the state Juvenile Corrections Department.
  • $1.65M in one-time Arizona Lottery funds shared with Mohave, Yavapai and Yuma counties.

“Roads are our top priority and so the (partial HURF) restoration will have a meaningful impact on our ability to do road building and maintenance,” Sullivan said.

Another win: Lawmakers agreed to fund construction at state universities without dipping into sales-tax revenues earmarked for counties and cities, as proposed originally.

But counties want to see this year’s one-time relief added permanently to future budgets, so local officials don’t have to fight every year to secure them, Sullivan said. Counties began helping the state financially in the midst of the fallout from the 2008 recession. Lawmakers have required support from counties to continue despite the economic recovery.

Counties have shouldered more than $500M in funding sweeps and cost shifts by state lawmakers since the economic meltdown, according to the County Supervisors Association.

“Year after year after year, (state officials) put their hands in the county’s pockets to balance the state budget,” Mohave County Supervisor Steve Moss said in April before the final budget was released. “It’s really kicking us in the teeth.”

Read more at The Arizona Republic.

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