$12.9 Million Budget Request from Paul Babeu
In a time of weakening economies and “being inventive”, this weeks proposal by Sheriff Babeu to increase his budget by 12.9 million dollars caught all of the Pinal County Board of Supervisors not completely off guard as they knew it was coming, but without any way to pay for the increase. The forecast as things stand now is for a steady increase in deficits through 2016. And as far as property taxes go we are at a point that the board has maxed out their options of increasing property taxes by board vote. Any more property tax increase would have to go out to the voters of Pinal County.
This week I attended the Board of Supervisors meeting where Sheriff Babeu made a pretty good case to increase his budget by $12.9 million. What was lacking was a way to pay for the increase. The Board Room was pretty full as a lot of people wanted to hear what the Republican Sheriff and the Republican controlled board would say and finally resolve to do.
Below are links to the Agenda Item, the Staffing Study and the Budget Request. Sheriff Babeu and the [independent] company hired to do the study spent an extensive amount of time on the Staffing Study. It’s pertinent to staffing both personnel and equipment in Pinal County relative to counties and municipalities such as Maricopa County, Pima County, Tempe, Chandler and Mesa.
We’ve worked with the PCSO now for several years and this was not news to us. We’ve known for a long time that staffing was such that the patrols don’t patrol per se, but go from call to call. The 12 hour shifts end, but the paper work does not. More often than not the shifts actually goes 13,14 and 15 hours with paper work. And they do it gladly.The overtime is paid in time off later, but when you’re short handed to begin with it just exasperates the problem.
The Sheriff made a very good presentation for the increase and the entire board were in agreement with many points. But the fact still remains that there is no way to pay for such an increase. Below are some notes I took during the meeting. Left out is the passion and emotion, this is strictly a summary.
THE SHERIFF’S CASE TO INCREASE SPENDING BY $12.9M
- At current levels the PCSO pay structure is not competitive with surrounding municipalities and counties.
- The PCSO is training then losing good personnel.
- To attract new applicants the pay scale must be competitive.
- Staffing in the PCSO is below staffing in surrounding municipalities and counties by comparison.
- More staff and equipment needed as a public safety issue.
At current levels projected county deficits to increase yearly through 2016. Noted the 12.9M increase was unrealistic under present conditions. It would require an increase in tax otherwise the county would go bankrupt.
Noted the comment from John Acton and was agreeable to it. (This is in Public Forum below).
Referencing the Sheriff’s concern on attrition due to uncompetitive pay, Supervisor House indicated that the turn over rate in the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office was not an unusual amount statistically; it was on par with other agencies and the private sector.
Also indicated that pay cuts in the private sector is a way of life these days.
Said she didn’t know how this was going to work out.
Agreed with the comments by Supervisor Smith.
Commented on Sheriff Babeu’s statement that the ICE contracts needed to be renegotiated and that it hasn’t been done by the County Manager and he feels he is being penalized because of circumstances out of his control. Supervisor Rios agreed that the ICE contract needs to be renegotiated.
Noted that Pinal County had not done pay cuts but pay freezes and that there are no guarantees in pay working with municipalities or counties.
Also noted that the idea that the economy is turning around is suspect and that the sales tax revenue in Casa Grande has actually decreased indicating a weakening economy.
Noted that since this new board has taken over that they have added 4.3M in expenditures that are being absorbed by a county in the red. It would take a tax increase of .23 to pay for that 4.3M
To pay for the 12.9M the Sheriff was asking for would take a tax increase of .67.
Indicated that every time we lose a deputy we lose $12K. If you say this is a priority then prove it.
County Manager needs to renegotiate various judicial contracts and it’s not being done.
The Sheriff needs to modify his request.
7 in favor of increase (5 were PCSO related employees, departments or organizations)
3 against increase. John Acton recommended a gradual increase over 5 years as this is what the private sector does.
Everyone on the board agreed that the importance of increase staffing in the PCSO was high, however the request as it stands would not be financially responsible for the county as a whole.
Supervisor Smith motioned to continue not to exceed 30 days. In the meantime work sessions will be carried out with the Sheriff and his staff to see if there is a way to increase staff and equipment in a financially sound way. The motion carried.
I talked with Sheriff Babeu in the hall later and asked him if he thought things could get worked out in work sessions. He seemed pretty positive they would. But no one knows what the future holds (my inclination, not the Sheriff’s). But this is how it all works, really. Proposals are brought forward and the details get hashed out for the good of everyone, not the few.
So I guess (time permitting) I can follow up in the next 30 days. Hopefully all parties can come to the table with reasonable solutions to this big problem. If you’ve got any thoughts on this you are more than welcome to leave your comments here.
On a side note, what happened in that Board Room in Florence was not too dissimilar to what happens in our HOA meetings right here in San Tan Heights. Problems get hashed out for the greater good, supposedly. Don’t forget that HOA elections are coming up and your vote does count. It’s for the greater good.