Arizona school districts received a blow last month when the state cut $98 million from Arizona schools’ basic state aid and $21 million from soft capital for this fiscal year.

Although the Sedona Oak Creek School District is required to cut $115,000 from this year’s budget, teachers’ positions and their salaries will be saved.

According to Senate Bill 1106, passed at the end of January, SOCSD must cut $93,858 from their Maintenance and Operations budget, which pays for teachers’ salaries, and $20,919 from soft capital, which pays for things like books, computers and software.

Mingus Union High School District was ordered to cut $156,028 and Cottonwood Oak Creek Elementary District must cut $311,151. Camp Verde Unified District was forced to cut $115,297.

“That’s a pretty big chunk to cut two-thirds through the year,” SOCSD Superintendent Mike Aylstock said.

The kicker, he said, is that the state isn’t even going to benefit from the district’s cuts because SOCSD’s money is generated locally through property taxes and not state aid.

“But they have to treat everyone equally,” he said. There are 11 districts in Arizona that are forced to make cuts, even though their savings won’t go to the state.

A bonus, though, is that the bill exempted small school districts — ones with fewer than 600 students.

Thanks to efforts from Rep. Andy Tobin [R-District 1], they took it one step further and allowed exemption if the district’s kindergarten through eighth-grade school or ninth through 12th-grade school had fewer than 600 students.

“Since Sedona Red Rock High School is less than 600 students, we got a little break there,” Aylstock said, grateful of Tobin’s efforts. “It could have been worse for us.”

For the remainder of the school year, the bill allows districts to use soft capital allocations to go toward operations, which could come in handy, but Aylstock doesn’t think they’ll have to go this route.

SOCSD is fortunate that it carried over the maximum — 4 percent — into its M&O every year, he said, which gives it flexibility to make the state-mandated cuts now.

“We aren’t going to be reducing staff,” he said. “We aren’t going to be cutting salaries.

“Because of reserves we have in soft capital and the 4 percent carryover the district has done every year, we’ll be able to get through this year pretty much unscathed,” he said.

But based on the rumors, next year will be worse, he predicted.

On Feb. 12, Mingus Union High School District Board voted to make cuts in order to give money back to the state, according to Interim Superintendent Nancy Alexander.

MUHSD was ordered to cut $28,017 in soft capital, which is what it had left, so the district suspended all soft capital spending.

To help the M&O, the board voted to cut all transportation costs except those sponsored by the Arizona Interscholastic Association for sporting events.

“A lot of trips are planned that unless they have tax credit dollars or can fundraise, they’ll have to be suspended,” Alexander said.

The board also stopped all purchase order requests unless there is a health or safety concern to give relief to the M&O.

“There are all kinds of supplies that we’re doing without for the spring,” she said.

As for the economic stimulus bill passed Tuesday, Feb. 17, it won’t make up for the latest state cuts.

According to Aylstock, SOCSD is set to receive $59,600 under Title 1, which can help with remedial math and reading, and $140,600 under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act for special education.

One potential problem with the federal funds is that the district can only use them for Title 1 and IDEA purposes, and not to offset its losses elsewhere.

MUHSD has used some of its M&O money for special education, so some of the IDEA funds may be allowed to go to the M&O.

“Whether or not they’ll let us supplant or not, we don’t know,” Alexander said. “If there are supplant restrictions there will be little impact on the M&O.”

A second problem is that if the district receives funds, it may not be until the end of the school year and only a small percentage can be carried into next year.

“When those kinds of numbers flow in at the end of the year, it’s going to be difficult spending

that kind of money,” Aylstock said.

Local superintendents met with Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick [D-District 1] in Prescott to take those concerns to Washington.

According to Aylstock, currently, the district could not pay a teacher’s salary with Title 1 funds.

“My main concern is that with all the uncertainties, that they don’t negatively affect the education we’re providing our students,” he said. “I call on parents and community members to contact our legislators and implore them not to balance the budget on the backs of K through 12 students.”

The Sedona Fire District is one step closer to finding its next chief. On Thursday, Feb. 12, the SFD Governing Board selected two of six candidates to move forward. Although eight candidates were originally chosen by the 16-member citizens’ committee, only six came to Sedona on Feb. 11 and 12 for the two-day assessment process. The top two candidates, Norm Angelo of Washington, and Nazih Hazime of Michigan, were sent to Phoenix on Friday, Feb. 13, for a psychological evaluation. Since the board discussed the candidates in Executive Session, board members could not comment on why the two were picked. Angelo is a retired fire chief from King County Fire District No. 37 in Kent, Wash., and retired chief from El Segundo, Calif. He has 25 years experience as a chief. In Washington, he served a population of 133,000 with a staff of 144 and a budget of $13.5 million. In California, his budget was $12 million for 67 staff and a population of 75,000. He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and certificates of achievement in fire science, supervision, public administration and liberal arts from community colleges. He also has some classes under his belt for a master’s in business administration and plans to complete his degree, he said. According to Angelo, his education didn’t come from his degrees but from the people in his life that gave him practical skills. He is aware of the controversial year SFD has gone through and said a challenge isn’t going to stand in his way, but his values might. If he were offered the job, he has certain values and basic principles that would have to be aligned with the district’s in order for him to accept, he said. “I don’t need to be a fire chief that badly to accept values that I don’t agree with,” he said. “I have zero doubt about the members of that department. My question is where is that department going to be led ...” During his short trip to Sedona, he saw exceptional attitudes that put SFD on the right path. “They need to grow with someone, not someone showing them how good they are and how it needs to be done,” he said. Hazime is in his fifth year as fire chief of Dearborn, Mich., a city of 100,000. He has a staff of 122 and deals with a $14 million budget. He has an associate’s degree in fire science, is a National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer and a Eastern Michigan Fire Staff and Command graduate. As for the tumultuous year SFD has been through with recalls, resignations and elections, Hazime said it’s just part of the business. “That’s part of the responsibilities as fire chief,” he said. “You’re the liaison.” He and his wife have vacationed in Sedona many times, Hazime said, and have always enjoyed hiking the red rocks and like the community. A firefighter for 25 years, he got his start after watching a burning store in Detroit. He watched the fire before the fire department arrived and waited the whole time, even sticking around to watch them pack up. “The camaraderie and the work ethics were just fascinating to me, and I knew I wanted to be a firefighter,” he said. According to SFD Human Resources Manager Mandi Garfield, the board may decide to send a few members or staff to the two finalists’ home towns in early March. The board may vote on a new chief at the board meeting later that month, she said.

The city of Cottonwood is eyeing a 10 square mile parcel of state land, considering the possibility of annexing the 6,000 acres into the municipality’s boundary.

For the most part, the property is shaped like a large square with one smaller square attached at its southernmost boundary.

Looking northeast toward Sedona on Highway 89A, it begins about a mile and a half north of Cornville Road and ends about a mile short of Page Springs Road.

After a two-month application process, the 16-member citizens’ committee tasked with recruiting a new Sedona fire chief has narrowed the candidates down to seven.

The seven candidates are scheduled to come to Sedona from California, Florida, Michigan and Washington on Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 11 and 12, for a two-day assessment.

The assessment will include a role-play scenario, staff meeting, a budget exercise, a presentation, a media response scenario, an oral board and a meet and greet with the public.

The Sedona Fire District Governing Board — which makes the ultimate decision — will hopefully narrow it down to three or fewer candidates by Thursday evening, SFD Human Resource Manager Mandi Garfield said. Those last candidates will undergo a psychological evaluation in Phoenix on Friday,

Feb. 13.

The psychological evaluation costs $350 per


The district saved roughly $50,000 by forming a citizens’ committee to weed through applications instead of hiring a professional recruiting firm, Business Director Karen Daines said at the board’s meeting Jan. 28.

That’s good, board member Charles Christensen said Jan. 28, but he’d be happier if the person hired to run the two-day assessment center was local too.

Currently, SFD has lined up a consultant from Human Resource Strategies in Tucson for $6,500 to run the assessment center. Human Resource Strategies has worked with SFD in the past, Garfield said, and has experience working with districts.

Board Chairman Don Harr wondered if fire chiefs he, Christensen and board member Ralph Graves met at a Laughlin, Nev., conference could still apply.

“The word got around the conference from some chiefs that they didn’t know we were looking for a chief,” Harr said.

“They didn’t know because they’re not looking for a job,” compared to the “professional job hunters” who have applied at SFD, he said.

“Three candidates came to us at that conference and said ‘Is the process closed?’ They said we spurred their interest.”

After extending the

deadline twice, it is too late to reopen the process, Garfield said.

Two of the candidates are retired from chief or deputy chief positions and the remaining five are all

chiefs or second-in-command, she said.

The district will pay for each of the seven candidates’ transportation and two-day stay in Sedona, Daines said, which she expects to be $1,000 per candidate.

The money is not in the budget, but it can come from the $10,000 to $15,000 the district is saving a month from the fire chief vacancy, she said.

The offered salary ranges from $97,562 to $130,743, and the selected candidate is required to live within the district boundaries within six months.

Garfield hopes to have a new chief on board by May or June, she said.

Chapel area residents are currently disposing of effluent with on-site wastewater disposal systems — the most common among them — septic systems.

Although Tiffany Construc-tion began installing city sewer lines to the Chapel area on Aug. 4, after receiving a $10 million contract from the city, many Chapel residents can’t afford or just don’t want to connect to Sedona’s wastewater treatment plant, while others need or want the city’s sewer lines.

“Of those I have spoken with, the great majority, 60 to 70 percent, don’t want it,” Chapel resident Cole Greenberg said.

Greenberg doesn’t want it because he doesn’t need it, he said.

“If I can maintain my system and be environmentally responsible for roughly $600 in 17 years, I don’t need it,” he said. “It’s that simple for me.”

Greenberg estimated it will cost him about $20,000 to hire a contractor to connect him to the city’s lateral sewer pipe, fill in his septic tank and pay the $5,325 connection fee. And it will cost the city around $35,000 of its own money to bring him the line.

Centralized wastewater plants are far more expensive than on-site wastewater disposal systems and aren’t as environmentally sound, Greenberg said.

Jan Allbright, an Arizona registered sanitarian and president of the Verde River Citizens Alliance doesn’t agree.

The VRCA considers septic systems to be among the top three threats to the Verde River, he said.

According to a document produced by the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality calls on-site/septics “the overwhelming activity contributing to water quality impairment in Arizona.”

On-site/septic is responsible for over 90 percent of water problems, the report reads.

Chapel resident, Wendy Ferguson, is co-owner of Contract Wastewater Opera-tions, which runs a wastewater treatment plant for Sedona Shadows and contracts for small-scale centralized wastewater plants around Arizona.

She thinks all cities should connect their residents to municipal wastewater treatment plants.

“The reason we build utilities is to protect groundwater,” she said. “I think it’s a shared burden of all residents. To build it and then say ‘I guess you don’t have to hook up,’ doesn’t make any sense.”

According to Ferguson, the quality of effluent produced by wastewater plants far outweighs the quality of effluent produced by septic systems.

Household wastewater contains bacteria, infectious viruses, household chemicals and excess nutrients such as nitrate, the University of Arizona report stated.

“A septic system that is not operating properly may be a source of drinking water contamination,” according to the report.

Sedona’s water is 400 to 500 feet deep, Henry MacVittie, co-owner of Contract Wastewater Operations said, so there is no concern that Chapel area septic systems are contaminating Sedona’s water.

Lee Hetrick, Sedona division manager for the Arizona Water Company, said there have been no problems with water contamination in the Chapel area.

Septics at Work

Wastewater leaves the house and enters the septic tank, which first acts as a holding tank by allowing the solids to settle out, MacVittie said.

“In septic and municipal treatment plants, bacteria does most of the work,” he said.

From the septic tank, effluent moves through an underground pipe into a 3 foot by 5 foot trench — a leach field.

The pipe comes into a rocky area of the trench and releases the effluent.

“You would never know you were standing on a leach field because the effluent comes in so far down into the rocks,” MacVittie said, “if it’s all working properly.”

One clear sign of a faulty leach field is moisture on ground level. Smaller lots that are closer together are at greater risk for problems with septic systems than lots of an acre or more.

The size of the leach field is based on the size of the septic tank and how fast the soil percolates, he said.

Septic tanks should be pumped every five to seven years, he said, for around $250 if there’s easy access to the tank and up to $450 if there’s no or unknown access.

In the city of Sedona’s process of providing sewer to nearly 50 percent of the city, not everyone who has gotten it has wanted it.

According to Interim City Manager Alison Zelms, people in areas that have received sewer have been in favor or against it 60/40 or 40/60 percent.

There’s never been 100 percent consensus, she said.

After receiving approval of a $10 million contract this summer, Tiffany Construction began installing sewer pipes to the Chapel area Aug. 4.

After some public outcry against sewer installation, Sedona City Council will consider possible qualifications Chapel residents could meet to defer connecting to the city’s sewer on Wednesday, Feb. 11.

Chapel resident Wendy Ferguson, co-owner of Contract Wastewater Operations, thinks cities, towns and even the nation should be responsible for connecting residents to municipal wastewater treatment plants and getting them off of individual on-site wastewater disposal systems like septic systems.

Fellow Chapel resident Cole Greenberg has been running on a septic system for 17 years and sees no reason to make the costly switch to the city’s sewer since his costs for septic have been minimal.

Becky O’Banion, who rents out her home in the Chapel area, can see both sides of the coin.

O’Banion bought a 1976 home in the Chapel area that she considered to be in great shape a few years ago.

During the pre-sale inspection, inspectors lifted the lid of the septic tank and the whole thing collapsed.

“The seller had no idea how it was,” O’Banion said. “She wasn’t trying to hide anything,” which makes her wonder how positive other Chapel residents can be that their septic systems are working fine.

The previous owner had to tear up the yard and replace the septic tank before the sale was final.

Following life’s twists and turns, O’Banion moved to Clarkdale instead, but began renting out her Chapel home shortly after the new septic was put in.

One day she received a call that the master shower was clogging. After a closer inspection, it was determined the pipes connecting her house to the septic tank had collapsed — something no one could have caught during the pre-sale inspection.

O’Banion spent $2,000 to replace the pipes, which the contractor packed with salt so roots from her large trees wouldn’t invade them again.

Now she worries that the wonderful trees that endear residents to the Chapel area will continue to damage septic pipes with their roots.

With such small lots in the Chapel area, close together, each with their own septic tank and leach field, O’Banion can see the benefits of connecting to city sewer, but she’s not in a position to pay for it.

Costs vary depending on length of yard, slope and type of soil, but lateral connections run between $1,000 and $5,000. Homeowners must also pay to fill in their septic tanks and pay a capacity fee of $5,150 this fiscal year. After they connect, residents receive a $32.54 monthly sewer bill or $29.52 for low-flow fixtures.

Wastewater Treatment Plant

Sedona’s Wastewater Treatment Plant was built in 1992 with a design capacity of 1 million gallons a day.

Since then, the plant has undergone upgrades to be able to take in 2 million gallons daily, Director of Public Works Charles Mosley said.

After going through four phases of treatment, the plant disposes the effluent through wetlands and spray irrigation on both sides of Highway 89A.

Although the plant can take in 2 million gallons a day, according to Director of Wastewater Division Pat Livingstone, the plant doesn’t have capacity to irrigate 2 million gallons a day.

“Our plant could treat it but it wouldn’t have any place to discharge it,” she said.

Currently the plant takes in 1 to 1.2 million gallons a day and tries to put out as much as it takes in daily, Chief

Plant Operator Brett Twardy said.

The plant discharges nearly 40 million gallons of effluent to the wetlands and marshes per year and irrigates nearly 300 million gallons a year, Livingstone


Effluent goes through four treatment phases at the plant before being discharged to a holding pump where it is sucked to the wetlands or sprayed for irrigation.


After nearly three hours of discussion and a threat from the mayor to step down, the Sedona City Council passed two motions deciding what it should do with four committees created by the mayor.

On Tuesday, Jan. 27, council voted 7-0 to revise city rules and procedures so no member of council nor the mayor can independently form committees, commissions or a task force without prior approval by council.

The issue arose after Mayor Rob Adams formed an environmental committee, a community enhancement committee and an economic committee without council approval since taking office in May 2008.

Councilwoman Nancy Scagnelli didn’t question the quality of the committees, but she took issue with the committees since the city of Sedona runs by a council/city manager form of government, not a strong-mayor government, she said.

According to City Council Rules and Procedures No. 4-A, “The council may create committees, boards and commissions to assist in the conduct of the operation of the city government with such duties as the council may specify which is not inconsistent with the city code.”

City Attorney Mike Goimarac advised Adams last summer that although he was prohibited from establishing formal committees without council approval, he could form advisory committees.

Some councilors complained that Adams’ committees didn’t seem that informal considering they meet once or twice a month, and take up staff time.

They also worried that with the creation of the mayor’s committees, some city commissions, committees and task forces may have duplicating efforts.

Adams agreed that council should have approval of all groups and hoped to get council approval to formalize his committees.

But Councilman Dan Surber wanted to know more about the mayor’s committees first.

In the issue’s second motion, council agreed, 5-2, that Adams and Scagnelli would work with staff to bring recommendations to council on all city committees, commissions and task forces by the second meeting in March.

Before that date in March, council will hold a work session so the mayor’s committees can present to council, in order to be voted on later that month.

Scagnelli and Councilwoman Pud Colquitt voted against it.

“I can’t go along with these committees still being out there with no direction,” Colquitt said. “The simplest way to me is for the mayor’s committees to present to council, we vote on it, then we go from there.”

After a sleepless night, Adams reaffirmed Wednesday, Jan. 28, that if his committees had been pulled the night before he would have resigned.

“If you can’t see the value in what the committees are doing for the city, than I don’t see any purpose in serving,” he said.

He’s always made it clear that he wants to be a productive mayor, Adams said, and one way to do that was through the mayor’s committees.

Since all three committees are working on council priorities, there’s no “rational reason” to disband the committees, he said.

Members of all three committees spoke in favor of keeping them alive.

Robert Ancis, Rick Normand and Gerhard Mayer of the mayor’s budget committee spoke for their committee.

“In this tiny little town we have an extraordinary amount of talent that you all have access to,” Normand said. “Between the group of us we know what the economy is coming to. We know things we need to do as a city in order to survive in the next five years.”


Alison Ecklund 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.

Several Verde Valley communities have experienced an increase in burglaries since the new year began and are looking for the person, or persons, responsible.

At least four businesses in Cottonwood and around 12 shops and galleries in Jerome reported break-ins and theft or signs that someone tried to break in.

Online Poll

What do you read first in our newspaper?

Sedona Gas Prices

Lowest Gas Prices in Sedona
Sedona Gas Prices provided by
Sedona United States Mixed Rain and Snow, 38 °F
Current Conditions
Sunrise: 7:33 am   |   Sunset: 5:44 pm
92%     18.0 mph     28.276 bar
Sat Low: 25 °F High: 46 °F
Sun Low: 20 °F High: 37 °F
Mon Low: 14 °F High: 48 °F
Tue Low: 23 °F High: 47 °F
Wed Low: 20 °F High: 51 °F
Thu Low: 18 °F High: 51 °F
Fri Low: 18 °F High: 47 °F
Sat Low: 19 °F High: 46 °F
Sun Low: 25 °F High: 53 °F
Mon Low: 30 °F High: 61 °F