Funds slashed for Supervisor Miller's district after criticism

2014-02-19T00:00:00Z 2014-02-19T01:05:36Z Funds slashed for Supervisor Miller's district after criticismBy Joe Ferguson Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Tough political criticism on how the county has managed — or mismanaged — funds for road repairs may have backfired on Supervisor Ally Miller.

The other four members of the Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to gut funding for four road programs in her district and spend the money on emergency road repairs along Colossal Cave Road. The vote came after a Miller-initiated discussion of how the county spends its $5 million road-maintenance budget and her proposal to redirect roughly $100 million in funding to other county programs.

The road projects in Miller’s north-side district — worth an estimated $872,000 — were budgeted for later this fiscal year. Vail School District officials told the board Colossal Cave Road poses a serious safety problem to children and school employees.

Miller made it clear she believes Tuesday’s fund shift was political retribution for her continued criticism of what she sees as grossly underfunded plans to fix county roads and an unwillingness to reduce funding to sacred political institutions.

The first-term Republican targeted the county’s funding of Kino Hospital, suggested not issuing $47 million related to a 1997 highway-user bond fund, called for a sweep of any end-of-the-fiscal-year budget surplus and sought to reduce the number of outside nonmedical consultants and service providers by $10 million.

“I believe it was totally set up because of the fact I put item four on the addendum to discuss areas where we could fund monies (to fix county roads),” she said.

Supervisor Richard Elías, the Democrat behind the motion, said there was no political retribution, saying he just wanted to address a serious public-safety issue.

Supervisor Ray Carroll, who represents Vail, said he has historically made it a point not to interfere with staff decisions on where money should be spent for road projects.

He said he played no role in having Vail School District officials attend the meeting. The issue brought out roughly two dozen people from various parts of the county to speak on the road issue, with all asking for more repair funds.

The decision by supervisors to directly dictate which road projects receive funding, asking the county staff to reprioritize existing projects in the middle of the fiscal cycle, was not a first .

Last year, Miller persuaded the Pima County transportation staff to shift some money to other road projects in her district. At least one project in her district, already underway, was not affected by the decision on Tuesday.

The issue of tax equity for each of the five supervisors is difficult to measure.

For example, Supervisor Ramon Valadez gets a fraction of the amount the other four supervisors get from the county road maintenance fund but gets more than $1 million from a different fund for roads in his district.

Further complicating the issue is funding from the voter-approved 1997 road bond, where Miller’s district gets more than any other district.

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said Tuesday that the county would need $267 million to bring all county-maintained roads up to an acceptable standard.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at jferguson@azstarnet.com or 573-4346. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFerguson.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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