County criminal justice officials bemoaned the extreme difficulty of absorbing expected budget cuts while still delivering government services at the first of five planned budget hearings Tuesday.
Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall told the Board of Supervisors her prosecutors typically carry caseloads larger than “national standards,” as much as twice as public defenders, while still maintaining a 92 percent conviction rate.
The county attorney has requested $22.4 million in general fund support for the coming fiscal year, about $18,500 less than the current year.
The department also has seen a loss in state and federal grant funding, with more than $6.4 million in grants drying up between 2007 and 2013.
The county attorney expects to lose another $3.9 million in grant funding next year.
Pima County Juvenile Court Presiding Judge Kathleen Quigley discussed the many diversion, mediation and other court programs instituted over the years that have reduced delinquency and helped keep children from being incarcerated.
As recently as 2003, an average of about 174 youths were incarcerated each day. Today the daily average has fallen to 36.
“More than ever, it is important that we be able to maintain these evidence-based programs,” Quigley said.
Those programs, however, face cuts or elimination as a result of cost shifts from the state to the court, Quigley said.
For instance, the recently passed state budget mandates that counties now pay 25 percent of the costs to operate the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections. The costs are divided based on overall county population — not where the residents of the facility were convicted.
The shift could total an extra $1.8 million tab for Pima County. That cost, plus other potential cuts to the court, could amount to more than $3 million, court officials said.
Similar diversion and specialty court programs at Superior Court also face reductions or elimination, Presiding Judge Sarah Simmons said.
Those programs, such as mental health and drug courts, have been credited with reducing recidivism rates and saving on costs of incarceration.
But none of the programs are mandatory and therefore would be some of the first to face cuts, Simmons said.
Other departments presenting budget proposals to the board on Tuesday included the clerk of the court, which requested $10.9 million in general fund support for fiscal 2016, an increase of $154,000.
Justice courts requested nearly $8.3 million in general fund support, an increase of $12,020.
Superior court requested $29.8 million in general fund support, an increase of $10,000.
The sheriff’s department has asked for $145.3 million in general fund support, a more than $8.5 million increase.
Other budget hearings are scheduled for April 14 and 21, and May 5 and 12.