As the state tightens its belt and doles out budget cuts instead of money, the future of the Yavapai County Juvenile and Adult Probation Departments is uncertain.
Chief Adult Probation Officer Bill Fitzgerald and Director of the Juvenile Probation Department Gordon Glau both said their departments will be fine this fiscal year. Both also have concerns about what will happen next year if the Legislature demands more cutbacks.
Fitzgerald said the state pays for about 70 percent of the approximately $4.2 million operation. The state recently cut $116,100 from their budget for this fiscal year.
Fitzgerald said the department is handling the cutbacks by keeping vacant positions open and reducing treatment options. The administrative office of the court determined which programs would lose money.
“They hit us on four funds,” he said.
Fitzgerald had to cut $34,400 from the intensive probation fund, $59,300 from State Aide Enhancement money, that covers the salaries for several field probation officer positions, $2,200 from the Interstate Compact fund that pays for the supervision of people on probation in other states that move to Arizona and $20,200 from the Community Punishment Program.
“That is basically treatment money,” he said, adding that they will not remove anyone from any treatment programs. Instead, they will be unable to send as many people to treatment programs as they did in the past.
Glau said he had to cut about $36,000 from his $4.3 million budget. He said the department “absorbed the costs” by dipping into the interest accrued in some of the accounts.
“But that money has been exhausted,” he said.
He had to cut $5,900 from the standard probation fund, $8,900 from intensive probation money, $17,700 from the diversion fund and $3,100 from treatment money.
He said they lost about 1.8 percent of the money they received from the state.
“We were able to handle that OK,” he said.
He added that the Juvenile Probation Department, like the Adult Probation Department, is bracing for another budget cut this year and perhaps a third next year.
Glau said he plans to handle the loss by cutting back operating costs, limiting travel and training and reducing treatment programs – in that order.
“Our plan is to reduce operating costs without compromising the level of service we provide,” he said.
He said the worst-case scenario would involve layoffs but he does not foresee that happening.
“Any reduction in staff at all would really hurt,” Glau said.
He added that they are not sure which of the juvenile programs would be hit the hardest because they don’t know exactly how much more money the state will cut.
“It’s all kind of a mystery right now,” he said.
Fitzgerald also said he is not sure from where he will shave expenses if there are more cutbacks. He said probation officers make routine trips to houses and talk to family members and neighbors. He said the hands-on supervision works. He added that if they have to reduce expenses and are no longer able to monitor their home environments public safety could be in jeopardy.
“This is not just about probation. This is about community protection,” he said. “Offenders in the community need monitoring and they need resources and they need to know how to uses those resources.”
Glau said he also expects to see an increase in juvenile crime if the budget cutbacks continue.
“We won’t be able to watch them (probationers) as closely and we won’t be able to offer them the services they need,” he said.
Both agreed that the close supervision and the treatment options provided to the people on probation decreases the number of repeat offenders.
“It’s going to be really sad if we have to take a step back,” Fitzgerald said.