Yuma, Arizona - This has been a very unusual year for Yuma County, and it is reflected in the budget that has been presented to the Board of Supervisors. A recent headline in the Yuma Sun said, “$464 Million proposed county budget 58% over last year”. This headline motivated County staff to provide a fuller explanation to the public about the budget, due to one-time funds the County is receiving which caused an unusual increase from this current fiscal year.

This year is an unusual budget year not only for Yuma County, but for our neighboring cities and towns as well, as previously reported by the Yuma Sun.  For example, the City of Yuma’s proposed FY 2021-22 budget is $522 million, which is more than 100% over its current year $249 million budget. Yuma County’s proposed FY 2021-22 budget of $464 million is 58% over its current year $289 million budget.

The County’s total budget includes not only the County General Fund but also Special Revenue Funds, which include the Jail District, Health District, Health Grants, Library District, and Flood Control District. Other County funds include Capital Projects Funds, Debt Service Fund and Internal Service Funds.

New Special Funds have been set up for $41.5 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act monies and $11.5 million in federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program monies, all one-time funds. This is to anticipate and prepare for community needs that may require use of those funds. If the money is not appropriated, it cannot be spent.

“The budget appears large because we have to include all possible revenues and expenditures,” explained Chief Financial Officer Gil Villegas. “If something is not included in the budget, it’s almost impossible to add it later due to State appropriation rules.”

One significant increase in next year’s budget is for one-time Capital Projects, which total $68 million.  “We need to prepare for the possibility that the County will pursue some or all of these projects in the next fiscal year,” County Administrator Susan Thorpe said. “Again, these are one time funds, of which approximately $54.8 million is expected to be borrowed for construction.”

This unusual budget year started with a conservative approach to the current FY 2020-21 budget. County budget staff anticipated much lower revenues than what is now projected. Overall, revenues are anticipated to be $12.7 million higher than budgeted. The County’s departments and offices have been very conservative and are projected to spend $5.3 million less than budgeted by year’s end. This results in about $18 million in one-time funds going into FY 2021-22. This allows the County to invest in one-time expenditures to address one-time needs.

To summarize, the budget for FY 2021-22 is larger than the current year due to several one-time factors:

  1. The federal American Rescue Plan Act funds allocated to Yuma County must be budgeted in order to be expended. This adds more than $41.5 million to next year’s budget.
  2. The federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program funds allocated to Yuma County must be budgeted in order to be expended. These funds of $11.5 million are pass-through dollars that will go to struggling households throughout Yuma County to assist them in paying rent and utilities.
  3. Over the past year, the Board of Supervisors has discussed potential construction of an Administration building, Health Department building and Facilities Management/Information Technology/Public Fiduciary building. The total for these three buildings is $54.8 million within a total Capital Projects Budget of $68 million. Capital Projects also include the Tacna Water System, paid with USDA-RD grant funds, Jail District projects to address the needs in the 30 year old Jail building, and capital repairs to other aging buildings. The Board may decide to delay one or more of these projects, but funding is included now to allow these projects to be initiated in FY 2021-22. If the funds are not appropriated, they cannot be spent.
  4. The Board has been setting aside funds for three years to begin a fleet management program to replace vehicles on a regular schedule to ensure the safety of our employees when driving vehicles and equipment to do their jobs. The budget includes one-time funds of $1.5 million to kick off the replacement fund and $2 million to replace a significant number of obsolete vehicles and equipment in the coming year.

“Last year when we created the budget, there were so many unknowns due to COVID,” Villegas said. “We chose to budget very conservatively, estimating significant decreases in revenue and expenditures due to the pandemic.” As it turned out, County revenues, in particular sales tax revenues, exceeded the County’s estimates.”

“We saw the impact of federal stimulus payments, unemployment benefits and other programs that put money in people’s pockets … money that was spent here in Yuma County and resulted in County revenues,” Thorpe said. “Those programs are ending and life is returning to normal. We’re not expecting to see the one-time spike in revenue we saw this past year to happen again.”