PRESCOTT - Having examined, line-by-line, three-quarters of the county's departmental budgets, the three freshman members of the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors were frustrated Wednesday.
"Some of these line items don't make any sense," Supervisor Craig Brown said. "Many of them are really inflated...they're doing guesstimations. It's not based on their usage."
"It doesn't appear to me there's much budgeting going on," Supervisor Jack Smith said. "It's just, 'This is what I'm asking for, this is what I want.'"
Supervisor Rowle Simmons added that, "It doesn't seem to be very creative...and some of them really couldn't answer the (board's) questions.
"I don't know if that's just standard operating procedure," Simmons said.
Brown said he felt that the department heads were "just going on past experience," but he wanted to see some statistical analysis. "Only one came in with any statistics, one that really said, 'This is what we did last year.'
"Right now, it's very hard to make a decision, based on the information you're providing," he said.
Chairman Chip Davis said it was possible to go too far. "The flip side of the coin...is the assumption that the Board of Supervisors is micromanaging by walking through line-items."
"My position as a member of this board is, we're four-million-plus short, and I'm trying to figure out how I can save as much as I can in the next year so I'm not another four million short," Brown said.
Supervisor Tom Thurman said the county is "hugely in the hole," and noted that, while the board had made some cuts during the presentations, "I'm not seeing a lot being eliminated."
He said that, although the board had granted some budget requests in the past couple of years by dipping into the capital reserve fund, that's a "rainy day fund" that the board can't continue to rely upon.
"Maybe the departments can go back on line-items and maybe sharpen their pencils a little bit," Smith said. "Because, I know it's a buck here, a buck there, fifty bucks, a hundred bucks, but if we ask all the departments...to bring it a little tighter," maybe they can make changes that will add up.
"I've been very proud of our departments," Thurman said, and pointed out that there was a time when every department routinely asked for 8 to 12 percent increases, a trend that has been reversed.
Brown agreed, but said, "I'd really like to see them take a little harder look."
County Administrator Phil Bourdon said, "This was the first presentation departments gave to the board in many years, and we can try to give guidance next year on what kind of information you would like to see."