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In early March, The Arizona Republic reported the state’s budget shortfall is up to $1.2 billion.

How to cope with budget shortfall challenges is a frequent topic at city council, town council and government meetings across the Verde Valley, too.

Add Yavapai County to the list of governments facing uncertain economic times in the first quarter of 2008. County leaders are concerned with keeping the budget under control.

Yavapai County District 3 Supervisor Chip Davis said the shortfall amounts to about $6.4 million this year.

“Yavapai County is experiencing tax revenue shortfalls much like the state and other cities and towns,” County Administrator Julie Ayers said.

Although county agencies have trimmed approximately $1.5 million in the past month, Davis said that won’t be nearly enough.

“They’ve [agency heads] got to take another look. I think it’s better that they decide what to cut than the board,” Davis said.

Ayers said departments have analyzed where to make cuts and will continue to do so.

However, Ayers said the county is now focusing on the creation of the 2008-09 budget and departments may find that budget even tougher than this year’s.

On Jan. 29, Ayers told the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors the county is experiencing a recession.

“We’ve got to cut out unnecessary things,” Davis said from Phoenix on Friday, March 7. “The county should live within its means. It should be as accountable as a private business or a family.”

Asked if shortfalls had to be dealt with now, Davis said it “depends on whose philosophy you use. Mine is that cuts do have to be made now.”
Ayers said that based on need, some county positions can’t go unfilled but otherwise the county has a “hiring chill.”

One major item that cannot be cut is the jail district. Ayers told the board another $1.8 million is needed to keep the jails operating.

“There are not a lot of options there. Violators must be incarcerated. We’re still challenging the jails to come up with better efficiency and service since we’re operating in a deficit,” Davis said.

Craig Sullivan, director of the County Supervisors Association of Arizona, told the Board of Supervisors that to deal with the budget shortfall at the state level, counties may have to bear more of the burden for such costly items as prisoner incarceration.

“They’re contemplating sending more prisoners to our jails,” Davis said.
Davis did not want the county’s financial situation to sound entirely bleak, however.

“Sometimes a controversy can cause people to step back and see how to improve business. We just have to clean it up and make it more efficient,” he said.

Todd Etshman can be reached at 634-8551 or e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Yavapai County Board of Supervisors can’t balance the county’s budget without closing the Yavapai County Jail in Prescott after voters rejected a jail district tax, supervisors determined Monday, Jan. 5.

A unanimous vote set Wednesday, April 1, as the closing date for the jail, at which time arrestees from the entire county will be transported to the Yavapai County Detention Center in Camp Verde.

If voters had approved the quarter-cent jail tax on the November ballot, Yavapai County Sheriff Steve Waugh said he’d be having a different conversation with the board.

“This is where push comes to shove,” Tom Thurman, District 2 supervisor, said.

According to County Administrator Julie Ayers, 62 percent of the
county’s budget goes toward law enforcement and the county faces a $5.9 million budget shortfall for fiscal year 2008-09. By FY 2009-10, the deficit could increase to $13.3 million.

Closing the Prescott jail will save the county $2.4 million to $2.6 million at a time when the jail district faces a potential $5 million deficit, Waugh said.
Closing the Prescott jail is the biggest cost saver the county’s found since it began cutbacks, District 3 Supervisor Chip Davis said.

Prescott Police Chief Randy Oaks and Prescott Valley Police Chief Jim Maxson told the board they don’t want the jail to close because it would require them to transport anyone they arrest to Camp Verde at their expense.

Currently, police officers in both communities simply take prisoners to the Prescott jail.

Oaks and Maxson said transportation would take their officers off the streets for up to three hours at a time and neither have the capability to hold prisoners while they wait for transport.

County Attorney Sheila Polk said she supports Oaks and Maxson and doesn’t feel the county should pass expense onto communities to balance its budget.

“This is similar to unfunded [state and federal] mandates,” Polk said. She compared the situation to the Arizona Department of Transportation now charging counties, cities and towns for use of its crime lab.

“We are all in the same boat and we are in the midst of a heck of a storm,” Davis said.

Prescott and Prescott Valley have been getting a free ride, according to Waugh, and it’s not his job to balance their budgets. It’s his job to balance his.

“I have to live every day with the transportation issue,” Waugh said.

Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrest criminals all over the county and have to take them to the nearest jail. The closure will also inconvenience them, Waugh said. He wants to keep the Prescott jail open, but somebody has to pay for it.

Sedona, Cottonwood and Clarkdale police officers transport their prisoners to Camp Verde at the departments’ cost.

District 1 Supervisor Carol Springer said nobody likes the idea of closing the jail and voters rejecting the tax is a key component of the decision. The county will have to go to the voters again and ask them to reconsider at some point.

Supervisors discussed delaying the decision of when and if to close the jail. Thurman suggested giving Waugh, Oaks and Maxson until July to come up with a plan.

However, the supervisors decided the closure was inevitable and the sooner the doors are shut, the sooner the county begins saving money.

Waugh said he will keep the lines of communication open with Oaks and Maxson in an effort to come up with a transportation plan that could include cost sharing.

Trista Steers can be reached at 282-7795, ext. 124, or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Clarkdale and Cottonwood motorists can expect construction and delays on Hwy. 89A for at least the next 48 weeks.

The first phase of an Arizona Department of Transportation project to widen and improve Hwy. 89A from Cement Plant Road to Black Hills Drive in Cottonwood began on Tuesday, Feb. 4.

The work began at Cement Plant Road and will proceed south to Black Hills Drive.

When completed, Hwy. 89A will have two lanes in each direction with a center median.

Crews will begin the project by clearing brush and rock for the roundabouts, new box culvert extensions and new pavement.

Utility companies have already begun relocating utilities to make way for the new road.

The first phase of the project will consist of the construction of new box culverts used to divert water under the road to prevent erosion.

Motorists will see safety barricades and construction signs placed near the initial culvert construction on Monday, Feb. 11.

The five roundabouts will be constructed at the intersections of Hwy. 89A and Cement Plant Road, Avienda, Lincoln, Groseta Ranch and Black Hills Drive.

ADOT spokesman Bill Williams said studies have shown the roundabouts are statistically safer than four-way intersections for motorists and pedestrians and ADOT plans to build more of them in Arizona.

ADOT said roundabouts improve capacity by 30 to 50 percent, reduce injury accidents by 80 percent and reduce fatalities by 90 percent.

Williams said another advantage of the roundabouts is that they provide for safer U-turns.

Area drivers will have to get used to navigating the five roundabouts in just 2.2 miles.

“It takes some getting used to but not a lot,” Williams said. “And they’re easier to cross than a four-way intersection since pedestrians only have to look left to check traffic.”

Williams said the roundabouts for this project were designed to handle the large trucks that use the road as well as passenger vehicles and pedestrians.

The $10.2 million project was awarded to S.J. Louis Construction in Phoenix.

An 18 month project to upgrade Hwy. 260 to a four-lane road for 2.4 miles from Western Drive to Thousand Trails is slated to begin this fall.

ADOT Public Involvement Officer Bill Pederson said that project will not impact motorists nearly as much as the Hwy. 89A project since most of the construction is adjacent to existing roadway.

“These projects have been in the works for a number of years,” Pederson said. “Folks have been anticipating this for quite some time.

With the increased growth in Verde Valley traffic, we need to improve those highways to accommodate traffic.”

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