County hopes for federal help for raises

The fate of raises for hundreds of Yavapai County government employees could depend upon whether the federal government provides PILT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) money to the county for the coming county budget year that starts July 1.

County Administrator Phil Bourdon told the Board of Supervisors Monday that federal officials are likely to notify counties this week about whether they get any PILT money. It traditionally goes to counties with lots of federal lands that are not subject to property taxes.

Yavapai County received about $3.1 million in PILT money for the current budget year, or $700,000 more than officials expected. But Congress has been fickle enough to prompt Bourdon to not even budget any PILT money for the 2016-17 year.

A couple of supervisors said Monday they support 2 percent cost-of-living raises for county employees, but starting at different times. Several said they want to hear about the PILT money before discussing raises further. A 2 percent raise would cost about $1.25 million.

With only 2 percent cost-of-living raises coming only twice since 2006, as living costs rose 18 percent, the county is losing employees to higher-paying jobs, Supervisor Tom Thurman said.

"We're horribly in the hole," he said.

While he's still working on exact figures, county revenues for the coming year could be about $3 million lower next year than this year's $200 million budget, Bourdon said. He's forecasting a 3 percent increase in state-shared sales tax revenues next year, a 5 percent increase in county sales tax revenues, a 4 percent increase in state vehicle license tax shared revenues, and a 3 percent increase in state gas tax shared revenues called HURF (Highway Users Revenue Fee) money.

The supervisors also discussed Monday a couple ways they are cutting costs.

They will use HURF money to hire an Adult Probation officer who will watch over an extra crew of people completing court-ordered community service hours by cutting brush and weeds alongside county roads.

And the supervisors asked Fleet Manager David Gartner to analyze the number of hours each department uses county and private vehicles. The supervisors agreed to cut the rate of reimbursement for mileage on personal vehicles from the federal rate of 57.5 cents per mile to the state rate of 44.5 cents.

The analysis concluded the county could sell off as many as 33 underused vehicles, bringing in an extra $100,000 at the county vehicle auction and saving $225,000 through fewer vehicle replacements.

But at least five department heads said they'd like to utilize new computer information first to try to use county motor pool vehicles more and personal vehicles less. Some also said they'd be hiring a new employee or two, so needs could change.

Sheriff Scott Mascher was the only one to appeal a Board of Supervisors budget decision during time set aside specifically for that purpose during Monday's meeting.

He said it would be cheaper to grant his request for about $11,000 to pay pilots to pick up prisoners being extradited to Yavapai County than to pay for commercial airline tickets.

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