BULLHEAD CITY, Arizona — One of the hardest choices Jack Hakim says Bullhead City has had to face since the property market went south and gambling profits fell across the river in Laughlin, Nevada, was having to lay off city employees.
“Many of the people we had to let go had been with us for decades, so it was far from easy,” said Hakim, mayor of this city of more than 40,000 people. Fresh cuts in funding from state cut government have left Hakim worried and angry that more people will lose their jobs.
The city’s payroll has already been cut to 318 people from 357. Further layoffs have been avoided so far by suspending cost of living adjustments and through furlough days, or unpaid days off. A sign on the public entrance to city hall announces that due to tough economic times the next furlough day will be on November 11.
“Our people have made some incredible sacrifices just to keep their jobs,” Hakim said.
The mayor worries that more layoffs may have to come soon as the state has announced that it will cut funding to the city by $1.2 million. Bullhead City has already cut its budget for the current fiscal year to $82 million from $89 million.
“We’re down to our bare knuckles as it is and we can’t live with more cuts,” he said.
Hakim said the cut in funding for Bullhead City is the sort if thing that makes him angry because he feels state and national politicians have abandoned small town USA for years.
“Rural communities are the forgotten areas of America,” he said. “The only time communities like ours hear from state or national politicians is when they need us because there is going to be a close election and then we don’t see them again for a few years.”
“Politics is about serving people,” said Hakim, who came out of retirement to serve as mayor. The job pays $250 per week and Hakim said he usually works about 60 hours a week. “Our state and national politicians just don’t seem to get that basic principle. But, come on, how simple is that?”
Hakim and a handful of other mayors in Arizona are trying to form a mayor’s association bringing together mayors of smaller communities to work closely together.
“If we try to fight on alone it will be really tough,” he said. “But if rural communigties stand together we’re going to make it.”