Board Must Protect County's Assets

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Dear Gila County Residents:

The intergovernmental agreement with Eastern Arizona College (EAC) for post-secondary educational services in Gila County for the 2002/2003 school year has become not only a very emotional issue, but a very complex issue as well.

The stand taken by the Gila County Board of Supervisors is very simple: all revenues generated in Gila County or on account of Gila County students belongs to and should remain in Gila County, and our legal counsel concurs. The position of EAC officials is that those revenues belong to them. The absence of specific statutory language addressing this issue further complicates the matter and may eventually have to be resolved by the courts.

The position of the Gila County Board of Supervisors is that we must protect the county's assets. The voters of Gila County placed that sacred trust in each member of the board, and continually ask us to properly utilize tax revenues and to become more efficient and accountable.

This board strongly believes that we have made many strides toward those ends, with much work left to be done. Change does not happen quickly or easily.

Rest assured, citizens, that is not the intention of this board of supervisors to close any of the college campuses or facilities or terminate services. Rather, our intention is to have in place a binding, legal agreement with a provider whose mutual interest is the protection of Gila County assets as well as the provision of post-secondary education opportunities in Gila County.

We have been in communication with several community college districts in Arizona that have expressed an interest in continuing college classes at our existing facilities and, in addition, exploring the possibilities of providing a variety of distance learning opportunities.

In a time of decreasing revenues and rising or shifting of costs of mandated services, it is the obligation of this board to seek out high quality educational services which are within our means. We believe there are providers in Arizona whose focus in on high standards; student, community, and business needs; and, innovative vehicles for distribution of services to greater numbers of rural students.

Preparation of this letter will be suspect in some parts of our community because of the effort under way to recall me as District III Supervisor. It was important, however, that I not respond or react to such efforts during the negotiations with EAC. I am a servant of the citizens of Gila County until such time as I choose to leave office, or the citizens choose to remove me from office. Until either of those events occur, I will continue to protect the interests of Gila County and its citizens by the power vested in me from those citizens.

I encourage each of you to focus your attentions at this time on the college issue, keeping an open mind and gathering and weighing the facts. There is no place in these difficult times for rumor and innuendo.

I look forward to the continuation of post-secondary education opportunities in Gila County for the upcoming fall semester, and for many years thereafter.

Cruz Salas, Chairman, Gila County Board of Supervisors

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