The Pima County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a $2.1 billion budget for fiscal year 2022.
Board members voted 4-1 to approve the largest budget in county history with Supervisor Steve Christy opposing.
Although no changes were made to the tentative budget, before the final vote on approval, board members delved into two key concepts in this year’s budget: funding for the county’s early education program and body-worn cameras for the sheriff’s department.
The board also voted to provide $100,000 in general funds to the county’s home sharing pilot program.
The board gave the go-ahead on $10 million for the first year of the county’s early education program May 4. The program is to help low-income families enroll their children in preschool programs through public and private schools, child care centers and family home-care providers.
Before board members officially adopted the budget, Supervisor Sharon Bronson asked for a separate vote to approve the $10 million in general fund dollars that will fund the program.
The funding passed with a 3-2 vote with Supervisors Bronson and Christy voting against the early education program funding.
“We are using one-time monies, and I find that disturbing,” Bronson said. “We don’t have equal partners, we are putting in the majority of the money, whereas the people, many of whom are benefitting, reside in the city of Tucson.”
While Bronson expressed support of the concept of early childhood programs, she said a more equitable share of the cost was needed from other jurisdictions. Tucson has dedicated $1 million to the program, Marana $132,000 and Oro Valley $100,000.
Supervisor Christy, however, said he doesn’t think the county should play a role in the program at all.
“This is not a responsibility the county should be involved in and should not be taking any kind of stand on,” he said. “It’s a state issue and should remain as such.”
The scholarships will be available for those not yet in kindergarten from ages 3 to 5. County preschools are enrolling students at 170 locations for classes that begin as early as July.
The sheriff’s department will receive $2.1 million for body-worn cameras for every deputy and corrections officer as part of the adopted budget. The money will also fund new Tasers.
Supervisor Rex Scott asked for a review of the policies the sheriff’s department will use to operate the body-worn cameras, such as how footage is released to the public. He said he received a draft of the policies but wants supervisors to have the opportunity to review the final plan.
Sheriff Chris Nanos took issue with the requested review and said, “I do not believe the county attorney nor the Board of Supervisors has authority to tell the sheriff how to set his policies or what those policies will be.”
Scott clarified he supports approving the funding for the body-worn cameras, but that the policies guarding them should be finalized before they are approved for use.
“I’m in support of this purchase, but there have been questions raised around this country about policies that govern the use of body-worn cameras, including when the footage from those body-worn cameras are released to the public,” Scott said. “I’m not trying to assert authority that the board does not have, but I think we do have authority over purchases, and there’s information I would like to know before the purchases we approve are finalized.”
According to Nanos, the sheriff’s department has developed a draft of the guidelines for body-worn cameras and will likely finalize it this week.
“I feel like there’s a great lack of trust from this board and this current chair, and I don’t understand why,” Nanos said. “I really do struggle with the issue of submitting for your review policies that you know are going to lead to questions and then hold us hostage, if you will, for funding this program.”
The county attorney’s office will look into the board’s authority to review a body-worn camera policy for the sheriff’s department and return with clarification.
After approving the budget, supervisors revisited giving funds to the Pima Council on Aging for a one-year pilot home sharing program, which they delayed a vote on at a May 18 meeting.
The board voted 3-2 to provide $100,000 to the pilot program, cutting down Supervisor Matt Heinz’s original request for $200,000. Board members landed on the reduced amount to match the amount the city of Tucson dedicated to the program over two years. The funds will come from the county’s general fund.
The program is designed to help keep older adults in their homes while they share their residence with a roommate who would help them with their needs in return for possibly no rent or a lower payment. This program is intended to benefit older adults in need of affordable housing, which Tucson is lacking, says Heinz, who introduced the motion.
The first three months of the program will focus on researching other home sharing programs to establish how Pima County’s will operate. Staff will also research developing a software to help match participants under guidance of a staff member. The program will be evaluated quarterly.
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