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4/23/2013 1:12:00 PM
County begins messy job of dealing with budget
Supervisor Chip Davis: “When you’re broke, you’re broke.”
Supervisor Chip Davis: “When you’re broke, you’re broke.”

Scott Orr
The Daily Courier

PRESCOTT - Three of the five members of the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors had their first taste of what it takes to hash out the county budget Monday, and it didn't always go smoothly.

Craig Brown, Rowle Simmons, and Jack Smith are all new to the process, although Simmons has experience with a similar task from his days as mayor of Prescott.

Brown, however, had a complaint that he said he saw with almost every department's proposed budget: the practice of listing a line-item as a "zero-percent" change when the department asked for, say, $1,000, had spent just $233 up to this point, three-quarters of the way through the fiscal year, and was asking for $1,000 for next year.

Nearly every time he asked the question, he was given an answer that accounted for the cost, but he was not satisfied.

"They all show... budgets amounts that are significantly higher than what has occurred," Brown said. "Then we come into the forecast, and it shows we're going to use what we used, so therefore we end up with an increase/decrease of zero, which will be untrue at the end of the year.

"This is basically wishful thinking," Brown said. "You think the board looks down here (at the increase/decrease column) and goes, 'Oh, zero, zero, zero. Yay, no increases.'"

He added that the unspent money goes back into the general fund.

But Supervisor Tom Thurman cautioned against taking too hard a line on projections like that.

"We've got to be real careful," he said. "We don't want to create a situation like the feds have... if you don't spend it, and it's in your budget, you're not going to get it (next year).

"Instead of being frugal, they just go ahead" and spend the remaining funds.

County Administrator Phil Bourdon said, "We can probably work with departments to better and more accurately define the 12-month forecast."

The most contentious presentation came from Assessor Pam Pearsall. She asked for several deviations from the current year's budget, notably a $60,000 pilot program for aerial observation of properties known as Pictometry, which she would pay for out of the "assessor's surcharge fund," to which the state is no longer contributing .

Pictometry, which Pearsall believes will ultimately pay for itself in increased assessments, has been a point of dispute. "I was given the assurances that it was approved on my (2012-13) budget, so I spent a lot of my time and resources to put together this project," she said, but the board would not allow the contract to be signed. "I mean, you've given me the funding, it's the permission to enter the contract, and it seems like that's a matter of integrity."

Chairman Chip Davis raised an eyebrow. "When you're broke, you're broke," he said. "The surcharge fund is sunsetting ... you have obligations out there you've already put to the surcharge fund and now you're going to put another burden on the surcharge fund."

Pearsall said she'd take responsibility if the project would not generate enough revenue to cover its own expenses.

"But we've heard that over and over and over again, because we've probably expended about $7 million trying to come up with a computer program for the assessor's department over the last 10 years," Davis said.

"I only know about the $1 million for the last four years, and that contract was signed before I took office," Pearsall said.

She said the software worked well, and "I've come in and done a stellar job of keeping it going. So, you're welcome," she said.

"Well, thank you. I appreciate the highest drop in property valuations in the state of Arizona," Davis replied.

"I wouldn't say I was responsible for that," Pearsall said.

The board continues to hear more budget discussion through Thursday.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, April 26, 2013
Article comment by: Tom Babbitt

If Pearsall is accusing any of my fellow citizens of breaking the law without proof, she has to go. Nobody is hired to loath the citizens of Yavapai County (211,000 only, We expect proper statistical analysis from educated people) or to make false accusations.

Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2013
Article comment by: @ Snippy....

There have been several posts lately regarding one person's belief that 'Non-Profits" are not being fairly taxed and the rest of us are picking up the slack.
This time, you stated Tao. Not sure what your beef is with this non profit..but then I'm not even really familiar with it, but if it is non-profit by law...the Assessor has her hands tied. Perhaps you should try to prove in a court that this Tao group is for profit?
I've owned property over the years in several states, and I have never see taxes go down regardless of what the Assessor does. There are very direct laws concerning taxation in every jurisdiction, and in the states I am familiar with, the assessor can only assess value, not a tax rate. If the non-profits you want deemed fully taxable, and every rancher, church, private school and what ever added to the tax rolls at full value, your taxes on your property will not go down. The jurisdiction will simply have more money to blow on fancy computer software gimmicks.

Snippy, your personal vendetta against non profits and ranchers as stated in your post is not helpful in reducing anyone's taxes nor in improving the quality of life we all enjoy in the Verde

Again, thank you to the Chip and the group of 5 in protecting the County's bank account against overly zealous technocrats, bureaucrats and self serving government worker-ocrats.

Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2013
Article comment by: Slater Slater

Mr Brown I applaud you
Makes the rest look inadequate,or worse.I'm
sure this problem has been going on for at least a week (no).Perhaps a month.

Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2013
Article comment by: Snippy infighting does nothing to help taxpayers

The snippy exchange between two elected officials does nothing to help the taxpayers.

I am all for the assessor doing her job better, so everyone pays their fair share. Especially if she goes after some of these supposed nonprofits like Tao with huge property holdings that are paying zero for their fair share.

The rest of us have to pick up their slack. So the better the Assessor does her job, the less the rest of us have to pay.

Would love to see the Supervisors and the Assessor work together to go after these supposed nonprofits that are in reality raking in huge profits, along with anyone else including ranchers who are not paying their fair share.

In so doing, the Assessor should be supported by the Supervisors, not belittled.

Posted: Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Article comment by: Thank You Co. Supervisors!

Finally, some fiscal responsibility! & million over 10 years, "only" 1` million over 4 years, now another 60K for another software scam. Thank you for seeing through all of this and stopping it!
The Assessor seems to think there are a lot of scofflaws or something and that pictures in the sky will bring in pie in the sky revenues.
Sort of reminds me of a child asking for a puppy. "I'll take care of it everyday. Promise." What good would Pearsall's acceptance of the blame if the expenditure went bust? What, is she going to personally reimburse the County coffers?
Good call by Chip et al.

Posted: Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Article comment by: Citizen Not Subject

Once again we have the reassurance from
a government employee that " I will take responsibility if it doesn't work out".
So we, the taxpayers, need to ask ourselves, Just what does that really mean?
So far, in the grand scheme of government, it means that the government official will stand before us ans admit that they perhaps failed to allow for the reasons that the project failed or that we, the taxpayers, are once again on the hook for a large expense that we shouldn't have to pay for. Meanwhile, the government official keeps their job, at the same pay, with all the benefits and perks until they move on or get promoted to a better paying job in the same government.
Unlike in the business world where taking responsibility for a bad decision that costs the company lots of money usually means at least a demotion if not an outright loss of job and all benefits.
So, I must ask Ms. Pearsall what will her "taking responsibility" mean?
Just in case her aerial observation Pictometry program does not pay for itself as she plans.
Chairman Davis, I feel, has the right idea. stop funneling money into an area that has wasted millions already. Let the assessors office work with a system that has worked for many years instead of trying to come up with something new on our own.
If there is a valid system developed in the future, I'm sure the county will know about it at that time.
Chip Davis, as usual is looking out for the taxpayers money just as carefully as if it were his own, which it is in small part.
Thank you Chairman Davis.

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