A concerned resident foresees cuts coming to the Sedona Fire District since property taxes in the district have gone down dramatically.

Business Director Karen Daines said a few months ago she expected the assessed valuations of properties to decrease and was waiting on February numbers, which came in 30 percent lower than last year, SFD Board member Charles Christensen said.

The 30 percent decrease in assessed values will not affect the current budget cycle, but will impact the Sedona Fire District in 2011.

Sedona_FireResident Dick Fishel told the SFD Governing Board the 2011 assessed valuations, which residents recently received, are like a double-edged sword.

On one hand, Fishel said, he likes paying lower property taxes, but he realizes how much this could hurt the fire district since most of its funding comes from property taxes.

He said the 30 percent reduction in property taxes in 2011 means some unwelcome cuts no one will like must be implemented.

Fishel urged the board to look at cuts not impacting personnel or services residents currently receive.

Quick fixes of laying off people would likely result in losing them to other agencies, meaning SFD would not be able to hire them back in better times, he said.

Fishel added smart and successful companies understand the impact of layoffs, and they should only be used as a last resort.

Attempts to reach Daines were unsuccessful. She told other district employees she was too busy to comment.

According to a statement released by SFD, the 2011-2012 fiscal year budget and decreased property valuations are not items SFD is concerned with right now, and it is premature to talk about future impacts.

Property taxes also decreased for the current budget cycle the board is working on, though they did not compare to the 30 percent of 2010.

Daines earlier said there will be a reduction of 7.8 percent in the 2010-2011 fiscal year budget from the current 2009-2010 fiscal year. However, those figures did not take into account the recent salary freezes the board made to save $145,000.

The operations portion of the 2010-2011 budget is $12.86 million with another $51,000 being budgeted for capital projects.

The overall tentative budget Daines presented to the governing board is $13.99 million, but she added $600,000 of this figure is for contingency items in case an unexpected exspense occurs.

She told the board the intent is to stay extremely close to line item amounts, and when asked by the board how she created the budget, she said past years were indicators.

“We know what the costs are going to be,” she said. “We don’t know exactly what will happen.”

The next fire district budget workshop will be Wednesday, March 10, at 3 p.m. at Station No. 1 in West Sedona.

Michael Maresh can be reached at 282-7795, ext. 125, or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Sedona City Council is looking into ways to either collect its own sales tax or hire a third party to complete the task.

On Tuesday, Feb. 23, council heard a presentation from Tom Belshe, deputy director of the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, and Rob Heimbuch, of Revenue Discovery Systems.

Heimbuch said RDS does third-party collections for Bullhead City and a few states.

Belshe said the huge benefit is the city would get its sales tax funds back much sooner. Currently, it takes about eight weeks for the Arizona Department of Revenue to return the funds to Sedona.

Heimbuch said with his firm, the funds would be returned to the city within 24 hours of posting.

Belshe said the firm has an extremely good reputation.

“That is obviously a very local decision that has to be made very carefully,” Belshe said.

Heimbuch said his firm has 70 well-trained, experienced auditors on staff who know what they are doing.

He said there is no reason the city should have to wait to get its money back.

“You are not going to get your money when you deserve it,” he said, noting one added benefit is the firm will know who is and who is not paying sales taxes.

Heimbuch said the firm would call the business and ask if there is any type of an issue.

“We will work with the taxpayer, and get them where they need to be,” he said.

He said the software they provide is not a simple one to master, but Heimbuch said employees from his company would do the work.

He said it makes little sense to not give the city back its money in a timely fashion.

“This is the money you need to make decisions,” Heimbuch said. “We are trying to level the playing field.”

The program and service, however, is far from free.

If Sedona hired RDS, it would be a five-year contract, and the company would charge 1.2 percent of all sales tax it recovers the first year and 1.3 percent in years two to five.

jodie_filardoHowever, there is a bill in the Arizona House of Representatives that would not allow self collecting of sales tax.

House Bill 2512 is in the rules committee and has not yet been scheduled to be heard.

Belshe said the hope is for the bill to move forward so amendments can be added to it.

Jodie Filardo, economic planner for the city, said the city is going out for request for proposals for a sales tax auditor, and Heimbuch said his firm may send in a proposal.

Council directed staff to continue working to develop a self-collecting tax process.

Construction Schedule

  • Night excavation of uphill retaining wall near Canyon Drive, potentially through Sunday, Feb. 21.
  • Build uphill wall near Canyon Drive through March.
  • Install 42-inch storm drain between Canyon Drive and Morgan Wash at night through early March.
  • Downhill wall near Canyon Drive and roundabout at Canyon Drive through early April.
  • Oak Creek bridge through early April.
  • Roundabout at Schnebly Hill Road, final medians and curb and gutter, and final paving and striping through May.
  • Landscaping and final cleanup through early June.

Lane Restriction at Night

adotThe 42-inch storm drain pipe will be installed between Tuesday, Feb. 16, and Thursday, Feb. 18, between Canyon Drive and Morgan Wash. Temporary pavement has been added toward the uphill wall to provide the needed work zone for storm drain installation. Work that will necessitate restricting traffic to one lane will occur between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. Flaggers will direct traffic in this area.

Canyon Drive

Excavation for the footer of the northern portion of the uphill wall between Canyon Drive and the soil nail wall continues day and night until complete.

Wall construction started again Tuesday, Feb. 16. Short duration traffic restrictions to one lane may be necessary for up to 10-minutes during wall form setting, and for equipment and truck access to the work area during the day. Please plan travels accordingly.

Oak Creek Bridge

Crews are scheduled Tuesday, Feb. 16, to begin building the wall between the pedestrian and roadway bridges on the east bank, and work on Abutment 2 on the west bank. Bridge activities may require equipment and material hauling that could cause minor traffic delays.

Changes to construction plans can happen frequently due to weather, equipment and personnel availability.

Intermittent lane closures, with short delays, may not always be known in advance.


The city of Sedona is looking into the possibility of changing a policy to allow alcohol in its parks — with a few stipulations.

The Sedona City Council on Feb. 9 supported one of four options from the Parks and Recreation Commission, and after hearing consensus from council, city officials decided to work with its legal division and law enforcement to iron out issues. The city would then bring it back to council.

cityofsedonalogoThe option council supports would modify the policy to allow any government, corporate, social, fraternal group or family to apply to the city for permission to provide alcoholic beverages, so long it is not distributed outside their permitted group.

A few council members wondered about Option 4, which would remove the current policy and depend on local laws for people engaging in

illegal activities.

Interim Police Chief Jim Driscoll said the police department does not support the latter option because it wants someone to be in charge of gatherings.

“The potential would be very high for dangerous situations,” he said, and added it would open “Pandora’s box.”

Driscoll said the police department could work with Option 3, as long as those groups wanting to consume alcohol in the parks be monitored and scrutinized very closely.

He also said allowing alcohol in these locations would not be right for each and every park, so that would need to be worked out.

“I think we can mitigate many of those problems,” he said. “Overall, it is a good thing to do [to raise revenue].”

Council woman Pud Colquitt said she does not have a problem with the proposal, but she questioned allowing alcohol into the nearby Sedona Teen Center for adult functions.

“There is something about Teen Center and alcoholic beverages that bothers me,” Colquitt said, mentioning the two should never be linked together.

She said residents should be informed there would be street enforcement for people wanting to venture outside the park while consuming alcohol.

Colquitt also said there may be a problem with residents not knowing their limits.

“There are some people where one glass of wine will do you,” she said.

Vice Mayor Cliff Hamilton said he is not opposed to the idea, but added he would like for it to be only allowed during the day and for all alcohol to be provided by the sponsor.

If council changes the policy, it would be an about face from what it decided in February 2007 when it voted 5-2 against the Parks Recreation Commission recommendation to allow non-sale of alcoholic beverages with nonprofit organizations for special events.

In 2009, two council members requested the commission revisit the current policy and submit new recommendations for review.

If council changes the policy, the city would retain the right to require organized groups to obtain permission and pay appropriate fees established by the city before sponsoring, advertising, distributing or selling alcohol.

Andi Welsh, administrative services director for the city, said there would be a license fee, but was unsure about the amount.

Michael  Maresh can be contacted at 282-7795, ext. 125, or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


cityofsedonalogoLast year, a vehicle usage study was initiated by the Sedona City Manager’s Office due to concerns regarding the number of city vehicles and fiscal constraints affecting the city.

As a result, the city is auctioning eight additional vehicles and other miscellaneous equipment through publicsurplus.com over the next 45 days with a staggered release date. Those who are interested in viewing the vehicles or other items should go to www.publicsurplus.com and search “Agency” for city of Sedona.

Decreasing the numbers of vehicles and other surplus equipment has several benefits, including the following:

  • Reduced vehicle costs associated with maintenance [on older vehicles], insurance [number of vehicles covered] and eliminated replacement costs for vehicles not replaced.
  • Continued shared usage of vehicles within and among various departments.
  • Implementation of standardized purchasing policy for vehicle replacement.
  • Potential cost savings for storage of surplus equipment.

Check back often to see newly released items for public viewing. If you would like more information, please call the City Manager’s Office at 204-7127.


Rabbi Albert Plotkin, 89, founding rabbi of the Jewish Community of Sedona and the Verde Valley and a leader in the Phoenix Jewish and interfaith communities, died of a heart attack Feb. 3.

A memorial celebrating his life will be held at the JCSVV synagogue on Tuesday, Feb. 9, at 10 a.m.

Plotkin was an inspiring speaker, champion of civil rights, avid art collector and developed the Jewish Studies Program at Arizona State University, according to Rabbi Alicia Magal, current rabbi of the JCSVV.

Plotkin was also the main impetus for the creation of the Cutler-Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center, housed in the building of Phoenix’s first synagogue. It was hoped that he would be present at the formal opening later this year, but at least he was able to view the renovated building recently, a point of great pride and joy for him, Magal stated.

Plotkin served as Congregation Beth Israel’s spiritual leader in Scottsdale from 1955 through the early 1990s, when he became rabbi emeritus.

During his travels with his beloved wife Sylvia, who died several years ago, he collected an impressive collection which became the basis of the Sylvia Plotkin Judaica Museum, housed at Congregation Beth Israel in Scottsdale, Magal stated.

He did not remain retired for long, but answered the invitation to serve as spiritual leader for the newly formed congregation in Sedona. He served as rabbi of the JCSVV from 1991 until 2005. He encouraged the building of the synagogue, which was dedicated in 2004. The Rabbi Albert and Sylvia Plotkin Sanctuary is named in their honor, Magal stated. When Magal was hired to serve as full-time rabbi for the congregation, he kept up his warm connection with the congregation, she stated.

Plotkin was a community rabbi, active in interfaith programs and supportive of the arts, Magal stated. He continued writing books, lecturing and acting as rabbi emeritus both in Phoenix and Sedona. He had a stirring speaking and singing voice, and always ended his sermons with the Biblical phrase, “Hazak v’amatz,” which means, “Be strong and of great courage,” the words spoken by Moses to Joshua.

“He was a light on the horizon of several generations. That light is not extinguished, but lives on in the thousands he served and counseled, and in his books and teachings,” Magal said.

A funeral was held on Friday, Feb. 5, at Congregation Beth Israel, in Scottsdale.

Donations in his memory may be made to the JCSVV.

Sometimes life and relationships should be looked at with a sense of humor, which famed comedian Rita Rudner will do at the third annual Casino Royale in greater Sedona.

On Saturday, April 3, Rudner will entertain with her puckish smile, lethal wit and soft-spoken delivery to raise money for the Scorpion Booster Club of Sedona Red Rock High School and the Rotary Club of Sedona.

“I’ve always wanted to come to Sedona,” Rudner said in a recent telephone interview. “We’re bringing our little girl, Molly. I like to experience new places with her, and I’m also coming to see my friend, Bonny Singer.” Rudner and her husband and producer, Martin Bergman, adopted Molly in 2002.

Rita-Rudner-2-2-3According to Singer, Rudner will perform her Las Vegas stage show. Since 2001, Rudner has performed almost exclusively in Las Vegas.

Rudner’s show is perfect for the Casino Royale, Singer said. Included in the evening will be blackjack, craps, poker and roulette, along with an auction of wine, jewelry, art, vacations and more. People who attend will be given start-up gaming money, enjoy live music, a buffet and Rudner’s show.

Proceeds from the event go directly toward the latest hands-on computer technology for students as well as programs such as Teen Health and Wellness.

The Rotary’s portion of the funds will sponsor the Student of the Month Scholarship Program at Sedona Red Rock High School, the International Exchange Student Program, the Rotary Youth Leadership, the St. Andrew’s Church community dinners and the Polio Plus Program.

Rudner did well as a dancer, but she saw there were a lot of female dancers in New York but only a few female comedians, so she began researching her favorite comedians, including Woody Allen and Jack Benny.

Rudner appeared on several television shows in the United States and Great Britain, often on “The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson” with lines like, “I was a vegetarian until I started leaning toward the sunlight,” and “I was going to have cosmetic surgery until I noticed that the doctor’s office was full of portraits by Picasso.”

Along the way, Rudner recorded several award-winning comedy specials and her talents include a screenplay with Bergman, “Peter’s Friends,” in which she also acted. She authored books including, “Tickled Pink” and “Turning the Tables.” Rudner created and hosted the improvisational comedy talk-type show “Ask Rita.”

Rudner’s clever observations, sharp timing and style won her Best Comedian in Las Vegas for the past eight years.

Rudner’s appearance in Sedona came about through a conversation with Singer about the Casino Royale.

“I wanted to help Bonny [Singer] and thought it would be a fun thing to do,” Rudner said.

She will tailor her Las Vegas show to fit Sedona, so Rudner will spend some time before the show gathering ideas.

“My favorite thing on stage is to make people laugh. Laughter is healthy. Even though I don’t laugh, it’s cathartic for me to hear them laugh,” Rudner said. “I want everyone to have

a very good time and to be

very generous.”

Rudner has only two requirements: the audience be men and women, and they be alive.

Casino Royale is hosted by Enchantment Resort, 525 Boynton Canyon Road. Advance tickets can be purchased at Bashas’ Sedona, 160 Coffee Pot Drive; Salon Virtu, 1350 W. SR 89A; The Art of Wine at the Shops at Piñon Point, 101 N. SR 89A and at Sedona Red Rock High School, 995 Upper Red Rock Loop Road.

For more information, call 821-2800.

An issue of fairness in the Sedona mayor’s race was brought up Thursday, Jan. 14, at the Keep Sedona Beautiful City Council candidate forum after one candidate did not attend because he wanted to avoid potential open-meeting law violations.

Councilman and mayoral candidate Jerry Frey did not attend the forum after being told by the city attorney it could possibly violate the law, since he and Mayor Rob Adams, running for another term, would be among the third and fourth council members attending.

Sedona-Election-LogoFrey decided not to attend and believed Adams also would not be there to be fair, according to Frey. He was informed KSB would have another forum just for the two mayor candidates in the next week or two.

On Thursday night Adams asked the more than 100 audience members in attendance if they wanted him to leave, so there would be no hint of unfairness to anyone since Frey was not there.

A few members told him to stay and speak, so Adams decided to stay and take part.

He said KSB President Steve DeVol called him at 4:15 p.m. to tell him it was “his lucky day” since Frey had decided not to attend because of the open-meetings law violation possibility.

KSB President Stephen DeVol said he spoke with Frey who informed him of the potential open-meeting law violations if he did attend. DeVol contacted City Attorney Mike Goimarac who told him Frey was correct.

He said Frey was given the option to attend, saying two council members would have been asked to leave while the mayoral candidates made their opening remarks later in the meeting.

Frey said he is upset Adams decided to attend, and that KSB allowed it. He said the recommendation of having another forum for the mayoral candidates he made was welcomed by DeVol Thursday afternoon.

He said DeVol called him minutes before the forum was to start to ask him how he felt about asking a few council members to leave for a few minutes so he and Adams could speak.

“I told him I had made other plans.” Frey said, adding he found out Adams took part in the forum from other council members.

“I feel both Steve and Rob lied to me. I am [upset] he showed up,” Frey said. “This is hypocrisy at its worst.”

He also wonders what part of the open-meetings law KSB does not understand, mentioning the group accused council members of open-meeting law violations about a year ago.

Frey said it’s not the city’s responsibility to post meetings where council members might attend. Vice Mayor Cliff Hamilton and Councilman Mark DiNunzio showed up prior to the forum and left immediately after seeing three council members in attendance.

Frey said he doesn’t understand why the mayor attended.

“That shows no respect to me as a council member and as a mayoral candidate,” he said. “I let them know why I was not attending. I got this from the city attorney. I didn’t make this up. It’s really unfair, too.”

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