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FLORENCE — Pinal County will fund several nonprofit agencies for a total of $660,000 to relieve homelessness in the new fiscal year as part of a tentative annual budget the Board of Supervisors approved Wednesday.

The county is due to receive an extra federal Community Development Block Grant of nearly $1.1 million to address needs related to COVID-19. Just over half of this grant will go toward temporary housing and other assistance to help the homeless, and the rest will be divided into smaller amounts to other agencies eligible for COVID-19 funding.

The board also voted to reopen its application window for two more weeks to allow other nonprofits to apply for COVID-19 funding.

The new county budget of $570,355,462 is an increase of more than $58 million from the current year, due to future capital projects and potential grants, Pinal County Budget Director Angie Woods told the board.

Maintaining reserve

The new budget anticipates overspending revenues by almost $2.6 million, which leaves the county about $27.5 million in fund balances. This is 14% of expenditures, a little short of the county’s goal of a 15% reserve. But Woods said April revenues were better than expected, and if this continues, the county could still reach 15%. Because of uncertainty amid the pandemic, local excise tax and state-shared revenues are predicted to be flat in the new budget.

The budget includes 2.5% raises for county employees beginning in the second quarter at a cost of $1.3 million. Increases for sworn officers and detention step plans account for an additional $800,000. The county is covering a $900,000 increase in medical benefits so there will be no additional cost to employees.

The board will not formally adopt a new primary property tax rate until August, but the budget assumes a rate of $3.75 per $100 of assessed value. This continues the board’s strategic goal of reducing the primary property tax rate by four cents per year. The board will hold a public hearing and consider adopting a final budget on July 1, when the new fiscal year begins.

COVID-19 funding

The Pinal County Coalition to End Homelessness recommended a total of $660,000 in funding for various agencies. The largest of these is $374,000 to the Pinal County Housing Department to offer rental assistance, and $121,000 to various food banks.

Smaller grants were made to Horizon Health and Wellness, Community Action Human Resources Agency, Community Bridges and National Community Health Partners for temporary housing assistance. CAHRA also received a $30,000 grant to provide utility assistance beyond electricity.

The board also made $422,000 in other awards from the county’s special CDBG grant, including $68,000 for Against Abuse; $56,000 for the Pinal-Gila Council for Senior Citizens; $40,000 for the Hayden Senior Citizens Center; $30,000 for the United Way’s volunteer tax assistance program; $30,000 for Boys & Girls Clubs of the Casa Grande Valley; and $24,000 for the Superstition Community Food Bank.

There were also several smaller awards, such as $10,000 each to the Future Forward Foundation and the Florence American Legion post.

The board also funded several other nonprofit requests unrelated to the pandemic, including $44,500 to the Winkelman Natural Resources Conservation District and $35,000 to the Maricopa Senior Center. In all these grants totaled $300,963.

The budget also included $252,166 in membership dues to several different organizations including the Arizona Association of Counties, Central Arizona Governments, Maricopa Association of Governments, County Supervisors Association of Arizona and others.

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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.

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