BISBEE — Though just an assumption, it appears those receiving enhanced unemployment payments, economic impact payments and stimulus checks have managed to help Cochise County through difficult economic times via local buying as well as online shopping.
In a work session Oct. 27, county Budget Manager Daniel Duchon gave county Board of Supervisors members Tom Borer, Ann English and Peggy Judd a rosier than expected budget update for the first quarter of the 2020-21 fiscal year that began in July.
The thing to keep in mind and not get too confident in is that county sales tax and state shared revenue payments run two months behind. So, payments received in July of about $900,000 were actually from May. The $1 million received in August reflected spending in June.
“We’ve never seen $1 million in sales tax in one month,” he noted.
September figures of more than $900,000 declined as October’s figure was less than $800,000, he said.
The county sales tax revenues also could be affected by border wall construction by construction companies and workers, Borer said.
“The owner of RV City told me contractors were purchasing RVs for their employees,” he said.
Examples of revenue sources are shown in the accompanying chart.
A saving grace in all the ups and downs is the sales tax now collected by Arizona for remote online sales. It brought an additional $50,000 a month in July, August and September.
Duchon said, “That’s something to watch. It’s an extra $50,000 a month we weren’t counting on.”
English said, “People are using online shopping and delivery more. People see it as the best of both worlds. But, it could mean more vacant buildings in the future.
“We wouldn’t be where we are without the stimulus money. People are out spending money.”
County Administrator Richard Karwaczka added, “Without the stimulus money, we’d be in a depression.”
“We’re tracking better than we were, but we may still have to make some adjustments,” Borer said.
English and Judd hoped the improved outlook could lead to some restoration of the Community Enhancement Funds, which the supervisors use for special projects in their districts.
“The smaller communities expect our help with cleanup,” English said.
“This was a breath of fresh air,” Judd said. “Communities spent money locally. I’m thrilled people discovered local shopping instead of going to Tucson.”
Other good news for the county Duchon reported included a review of the final figures of expenses for the last fiscal year that showed most departments remained below 100 percent of the estimated General Fund expenses, with the exception of the Sheriff’s Office and the Sierra Vista Constable, which hit the mark.
Though overtime costs were higher than budgeted, the departments cut costs other ways in order to remain at or under budget, Duchon said.
Another bright ray was the collection of property taxes, which was expected to come in at $25.2 million. That allowed for some non–payments, and actually totaled $25.6 million.
Total county sales tax collected was budgeted at $6.9 million and the actual total was $8.4 million. State shared tax revenue was budgeted at $13.2 million and came in at $14.9 million.
Even so, the worst may not be over. Duchon suggested holding budget review work sessions every three months to remain aware of how the county is doing fiscally. The supervisors agreed.
In an interview, Duchon said he would feel more optimistic if the population grew or new businesses set up shop in the county. That would mean a constant increase in property tax and sales tax.
“The stimulus checks were a one-time thing. But, there are too many weird things going on in the country. There are just too many factors to predict how the rest of the year will go. I’m not worried about us going off a cliff, though.”
The presentation by Duchon can be viewed at: https://destinyhosted.com/cochidocs/2020/ WKS/20201027_2051/ 5501_Budget_Work_Session_10.27.pdf.