Every candidate in an election season champions smaller budgets and improved services.
It's been no different in the District 5 supervisors race between incumbent Richard Elías, a Democrat, and Republican Fernando Gonzales.
In Pima County, three of the top four expenses that are paid for with property taxes involve the justice system.
Courts finish No. 1 at $91 million, followed by jails, both adult and juvenile, at $73 million; and at No. 4, prosecution and defense at $60.9 million.
So how would the District 5 candidates curtail these numbers?
Gonzales said he doesn't understand why the costs are so high since "our elected officials boast a significant reduction in crime, court and jail inmates."
One way to mitigate the expense of indigent services, Gonzales said, is for the county to end its hostility to business and put people back to work.
"The more people we can put back to work, with good-paying jobs, will not only increase taxes by default, it will reduce the need for indigent services, thus provide a significant reduction in costs," Gonzales wrote in an email.
Elías pointed to his work over the past several years on a Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative to find ways for troubled kids to get their lives back on track and avoid a return to the court system.
"The effort has reduced the average daily census in the Pima County Juvenile Detention Center from about 150 youths to about 55 today," he wrote. "In addition to cost savings, we are seeing better long-term outcomes for affected youths."
Elías said he would work to make the justice system more efficient, including the Sheriff's Department and indigent defense, but he would not support lowering wages.
"I do not favor cutting wages in these areas as we then could lose our most effective employees to better-paying entities," he wrote. "And cuts to indigent defense just forces us to hire more expensive contract lawyers."
How do we fix our roads?
Over the years, the county's roads have deteriorated as the Legislature seized Highway User Revenue Funds to balance its own budget, leaving local jurisdictions to fend for themselves in finding monies for road repair.
Now that the roads are crumbling, the next Board of Supervisors will be challenged by voters to find a solution.
Elías said the county has allocated $20 million from this year and last year's budget to repair 124 miles of the county's most damaged roads.
To address the problem more vigorously, Elías said, the county is studying the possibility of adopting a short-term debt program with general-fund backing.
"In our defense, we fell behind in this area as the Legislature repeatedly raided our share of gasoline taxes to shore up state budgets," he wrote. "Some of these cuts have been restored, and we will lobby for the rest to be returned to us and for compensation for past losses."
Gonzales said the county already had the money, it just didn't spend it on roads.
Between 2009 and 2011, Gonzales asserts, the county received just over $117 million to spend on infrastructure.
"That money should have been utilized to fix our roads and not just the $20 million that magically appeared by the county during an election year," Gonzales wrote. "This goes back to poor management of our tax dollars and the need to prioritize our spending."
On StarNet: Read up on the candidates, propositions and issues at azstarnet.com/elections
• Tomorrow: Supervisors District 3.
• Saturday: Supervisors District 2.
• Sunday: Supervisors District 1.
Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or firstname.lastname@example.org