Tue, April 07

County supervisors oppose bill on finance

A bill pending in the state Senate that would give elected county officials such as the sheriff and treasurer their own budgets and control over personnel and other policies has drawn fire from county supervisors statewide including those at the helm of Yavapai County government.

The bill, SB 1017, which was voted down by the Senate finance committee Tuesday, would require the supervisors to give other elected officials in the county lump sum amounts and allow them to set their own rules for hiring, entering into contracts and procurement.

According to Yavapai Supervisors Chip Davis, Carol Springer and Tom Thurman, the bill, introduced by Republican Sen. Russell Pearce, stems from the political wrangling in Maricopa County between the county supervisors there and Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Pearce could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The bill, if it became law, would make it harder to run Yavapai County efficiently, Davis and Thurman said.

"It's important for us to have equality among our departments for personnel and salary schedules," said Davis, the chairman. If the supervisors lost control, it would be "redundant and wasteful." Davis called it "ironic" that the state Legislature has not yet passed a budget for the year but instead introduced a bill that would have a negative effect on the counties.

"Maybe they should just stick to their own business and stay out of ours," Davis said.

Thurman said the bill would "undermine the reasons the supervisors are here, to work with departments on all facets of their budgets. Each department would have to hire more folks or hire us out of their budget." Areas such as managing fleets of vehicles would be duplicated, costing the taxpayers more money and reducing services.

"All supervisors I know are totally against it," Thurman said.

Springer called it "the worst bill introduced in the Legislature this year."

"It would be devastating to the counties," said Springer. For each department to implement its own policy on technology, personnel and vehicles would be "absolutely chaos."

Craig Sullivan, the executive director of the County Supervisors Association of Arizona, said the legislation might be resurrected so his organization needs to remain vigilant.

"We are very concerned," Sullivan said. "The counties are constructed to balance elected officials with the public's need for fiscal oversight. This bill would create enormous barriers to fiscal accountability and transparency across county operations, and that's why we opposed it. We appreciated that the committee defeated it, and we believe very strongly this hamstrings efficient government, and we ought to be looking for ways to promote efficient government."

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