Maricopa County Update

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Maricopa County supervisors are working on a new budget. Board Chairman Denny Barney will discuss that and other county issues.

Ted Simons: And Maricopa County passed a new budget today, the $2.2 billion spending plan is slightly less than last year's budget. Joining us now is the chairman of the Maricopa County board of supervisors, Denny Barney. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Denny Barney: Thank you for the invitation.

Ted Simons: $2.2 billion compared to last year's budget, what are we seeing?

Denny Barney: The budget overall is about the same at last year, actually slightly less about $8.6 million less. What we really focused on this year was the criminal Justice components of our budget, the public safety piece, which represents a significant portion of the budget, about %51 of our overall budget, so really, that's, that was our emphasis this year.

Ted Simons: And I want to get to that emphasis in a second but I want to start with the idea of zero-based budgeting. It sounds like you went in there and said we're going to start over with this?

Denny Barney: In a way we did. It was a little scary at first because we felt like this was something that we traditionally wanted to explore and really see if we could make happen, it's not the way that we budget it at the county, and we started with our county attorney, Bill Montgomery, and said can you do this? And, and from there, pick three or four other strategic departments that we could, we could send down this kind of tandem track with the other budgets that we were working on, and frankly, it turned out to be very effective, we were able to, from the bottom up, discern what the needs were based on a mandate study, and what resources do we need based on service ratios and all of that stuff.

Ted Simons: So past spending, we talk about -- basically you start from zero, the past spending was not much of a factor, no factor, how much of a factor?

What, what -- the starting point is really looking at the ratios based on service demands, if we take the County Attorney's Office, or public defense services, for example, we can look at the flows and the volumes that we have on cases and is trials and different inputs that go into that, for that service lineup, and so we, we took those ratios from past budgets, and matched those up against other, other similar departments in the country, and started at the bottom and said, if we were building from the base, from zero, what would we need to deliver service based on these -- on this, these demands in the system?

Ted Simons: You mentioned the overall budget, is slightly less than last year, however, the operating budget was an increase of $64 million. Talk to us about this. You refer to public safety and these sorts of things as being an emphasis. Why?

Denny Barney: Well, our focus has been the mandates, and if you look at the mandates that we have under the statutes from the legislature, it really is public safety and criminal Justice, so this year, while we saw an increase in the operating budget, what we did was reduced the overall budget by $8.6 million, by redirecting where we put those dollars. We saw an increase on the operating side, that decrease came from strategically looking across the board, or can we pull resources while trying to keep the, the taxes very, very flat, if you will.

Ted Simons: Sounds like capital, the capital budget got hit?

Denny Barney: It did. The capital budget came down and, and frankly, a lot of areas came down, but when you look at where we spend the money and what we're mandated to do, we felt a huge priority as a board of supervisors to put that into the, the public safety.

Ted Simons: When we talk about the capital budget, excuse me, construction, I.T., maintenance, these things.

Denny Barney: Yeah. It is a big piece. IT is a big piece. We did put some resources into IT, especially into cyber security which is an important piece we felt we needed to keep in the budget. We've got a number of projects that are kind of in the queue, that were, we're working on, but really, took through kind of a strategic planning initiative that, that involved all of the other elected officials, and took, took a step back and said what is it that we're supposed to be doing, and reset our mission, and really, the budget is built around kind of that whole strategic planning idea, and that initiative.

Ted Simons: And how much of a pushback did you get?

Ted Simons: Ironically, we did not get any pushback. I think what, what -- what made this year different, is that we, we met from the beginning with, with every department both elected and non-elected, and recognizing that, that those elected officials are constitutional officers, and, and then we went through the needs and kind of did the, the analysis together, and we went through the strategic planning process, and so when we got to the, to the kind of later in the process to the actual budget conversations, we had kind of came together in terms of what the needs were going to be.

Denny Barney: And indeed, 51% of the budgets, give or take a percentage point there, and seems to be with the public safety, new superior court divisions, it also looks like --

Denny Barney: Three.

Ted Simons: Three? Okay. And salary hikes for MCSO, for Sherriff's department per say. Talk to us about that.

Denny Barney: And, and well, it's not just for the deputies, or the correctional officers, but for the probation officers, and other people that were kind of in the criminal Justice side. The thing that is most important to us, is that we don't lose good people, anybody that, that owns and operates a business knows how important it is to keep the right people, and as the market is healing, and coming back, albeit slowly, and we were seeing that, that our, our -- we were losing good people to other departments in the market, so this was really an attempt for us to shore up kind of the base of people that we need to help move us forward as the service demands continue to increase the population.

Ted Simons: So, there was a threat, and there was an actual loss of personnel because of salary?

Denny Barney: In an organization the size of the county you are going to have attrition and, and as the market was starting to heat up, if you will, we saw those numbers edge up, and so really we went through kind of a holistic market study, if you will, and determined strategically where do we need the additional resources to keep the right people?

Ted Simons: As far as the things in the queue, as you mentioned earlier, anything that you want to discuss? What are we looking at that we might be talking about next year at this time?

Denny Barney: We have the radio system, that, that, that's been approved, that will allow enhanced serviceability for the county. The county is 9,200 square miles, and we don't have a radio system that supports public safety, emergency service across the county, so that's coming, and we have additional work that's happening with the Justice courts and trying to figure out the best way to, to bring that to the market, so we have got some good things that we're working on, but we put other things on hold, so we can really focus on, on what are the immediate needs today.

Ted Simons: Were these court divisions and the operations and buildings and stuff, were they put on hold or were they things that were in the pipeline and, and going and just, you had to find the money for?

Denny Barney: Well, of the three court divisions, we had two that were juvenile divisions, and one is a criminal one, so as we looked at the volumes that were coming through the system, we felt like we had to find the money because as we, we slow the process down, that means we put more people in jail for a longer period of time, which has, has significant costs associated with it, so working with, with judge Davis, who is the presiding judge, and others in the, on the criminal Justice side, we really kind of drilled down what do we need today, and frankly there is not enough money to go around. That was what was really exciting about this time, is that everybody came together and, and said, we recognize the constraints and, and we also recognized the needs and, and here we go, and we kind of came together in a unique way this year.

Ted Simons: Do you think that zero-based, the zero-based method will be used the next go around?

Denny Barney: We're working on, on who is going to be the lucky department to engage. But yeah, we'll, we'll invite a number of departments to do it, and frankly, I think we'll get in a cycle of every three or four years doing that, so that we can take a reset view of where do we start?

Ted Simons: Last question, so we got the 73, something around there cut, 64 added, and I think what most folks want to know is everything that is supposed to be funded and should be funded, adequately funded?

Denny Barney: And it's a great question, and I think the answer is yes, but, one thing that we did this year was we're starting to anticipate even as we're coming out of this recession, what is the next recession, what does it look like? So we put in place the plan for our reserves and, and that, that over a period of time, four or five years, we can -- little by little prepare and anticipate that. We have got a plan now that lets us anticipate some of the other needs that are going to come both on the capital, the operating side, so the good news is, I think that, that together with the board and the elected officials, we kind of took a really, a different view on the budget, and it's been very, very, I think very rewarding for everybody involved.

Ted Simons: All right. It's good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Thanks for the invitation.

Denny Barney:Board Chairman, Maricopa County Board of Supervisors;

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