Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has declined a request by county administrators that all department heads propose cuts of up to 20% of their operating budgets to help the county deal with a potential $47 million shortfall.

County officials said the cuts should not have to be that severe, but asked for the proposals to help develop the fiscal 2010 budget. The budget process will begin in February.

Instead of submitting his proposals, Arpaio sent a letter to the county that called the proposed cuts “extreme and fiscally irresponsible.”

The sheriff said a 20% cut in his budget, which totals about $260 million for operations and detention, would force him to close the county’s maximum-security jail and cut 487 detention officer positions, 119 law enforcement positions, and seven civilians.

Treasurer Charles Hoskins also declined to respond to the request for budget cuts. Hoskins is suing the county board, alleging that a transfer of a technology unit earlier this year was an attempt by supervisors to eliminate the treasurer’s department. Hoskins said he would not provide any budget cut proposals until he can determine if additional legal action is appropriate.

Both men hold elected positions. County supervisors set the two departmental budgets, but cannot determine how the money is spent.

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