WatchSonoma Watch

County prepares to jettison jobs


Sonoma County government expects to eliminate 223 jobs, resulting in 63 layoffs, to help plug a $43 million gap in the county budget for the coming fiscal year.

Those preliminary numbers, released for a Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, would cut the size of the county’s workforce by almost 6 percent and touch nearly every department. The reductions account for about $25 million of the savings needed to balance the 2011-2012 county budget.

The plan would wipe out nearly all of the county’s 240 vacant positions, leaving 19 open jobs when the fiscal year begins July 1. County officials insisted the reductions did not come solely by eliminating vacancies, though they were not able to give a precise breakdown of filled and vacant positions to be cut.

Previous estimates called for 300 to 500 jobs to be shed from the county’s 3,800-member workforce and a much larger number of layoffs. Incentive-driven early retirements and other spending reductions, along with an increase in the fees charged by some departments, helped reduce the number of projected job losses somewhat, officials said.

“The initial estimate was the worst case scenario,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Efren Carrillo said in an interview Monday. Supervisors are set to hear a report Tuesday on the reductions, which are contained in a proposed budget to be released Friday.

Supervisors will determine the precise number of layoffs and job cuts in budget hearings set to begin June 13.

“There is no question that we’re still going to see a significant impact from these job losses,” Carrillo said.

Public safety staffing, including frontline jobs in the Sheriff’s and District Attorney’s offices and the probation department, are proposed for a larger share of the cuts this year than in the past two years of county budget woes. Together, the three departments account for nearly half of the proposed job cuts and more than 40 percent of the layoffs.

Officials said that was because the departments and another associated with the justice system — the Public Defender’s Office — account for more than half the spending from the county’s projected $377 million general fund, the discretionary pot within a larger $1.1 billion overall budget. In years past, the four justice departments had smaller savings targets, but for this coming fiscal year they were asked to meet the same 25 percent savings goal as other county divisions.

Come July, that means the possibility of a smaller corps of deputy sheriffs, correctional officers, criminal investigators and juvenile hall counselors overseeing day-to-day justice duties, county law enforcement officials said.

The officials acknowledged the impact of those cuts: less specialized services for the general public and individuals in county custody. As examples they cited two high-profile programs slated for elimination, the sheriff’s helicopter Henry 1 and the Sierra Youth Center, the probation facility for girls.

“The real issue is the programs we’re losing,” said Bob Ochs, chief probation officer, listing other alternative detention programs that could be cut.

Preserving the level of patrol and jail staffing remains a top priority, the officials stressed. And supervisors could save the high-profile justice programs in their deliberations next month, they said.

“We don’t know the final numbers yet,” said Assistant Sheriff Lorenzo Dueñas. He added, however, that the proposed reductions were “the hardest we’ve been hit ever.”

Ed Clites, president of the Sonoma County Law Enforcement Association, said that toll came as no surprise to his group, which was looking at 40 layoffs under the initial estimate but now stands to lose 19 workers by July 13, including correctional officers, juvenile counselors and investigators in the District Attorney’s Office.

“With all the cuts over the last two years, there really wasn’t a lot left to cut besides criminal justice,” Clites said.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to transfer some jail, court security and probation services to counties might bring some relief in the form of funding for new county jobs, sheriff’s and probation officials said.

County Administrator Veronica Ferguson said state budget proposals were not factored into the latest county workforce reductions.

Other county divisions, such as planning and parks, are also set for large workforce reductions between 10 and 20 percent.

A proposed single-year staffing cut of 20 percent at the Permit and Resources Management Department, combined with a 27 percent reduction over the previous two years, will mean slower turnaround times for permit processing and building inspections and a suspension of long-range planning efforts. The office also will go from a five-day week for walk-up services to a four-day week, spanning Monday through Thursday.

“There’s really not any section that is spared,” said planning director Pete Parkinson.

A nearly 12 percent reduction in park staff will be felt mostly in administrative and office duties as well as reduced ground maintenance around county buildings. No park closures or reduction in hours are planned, said Regional Parks Director Caryl Hart.

County leaders said the proposed cuts were harder to find than in the past two years of budget woes, when employee concessions, reserve funds and job attrition were used to balance the budget. Most of those moves have been ruled out this year in favor of job cuts and a more straight-forward budget.

For the second year, the county solicited early retirements with a one-time payout of up to $20,000 for full-time employees. This year 135 workers took the offer, eight fewer than last year and 44 less than the county was hoping to get. Still those departures are expected to generate annual ongoing savings of $15.6 million.

“Our ideal goal would be to have nobody walking out the door July 12,” said Ferguson. “But I’m proud of what we did to try and bring down (the number of layoffs and job cuts).”

The remainder of the budget gap, about $18 million, would be met through reduced spending on outside contracts and revenue increases from fees, administrators said.

20 Responses to “County prepares to jettison jobs”

  1. Not Buying It says:

    Justice departments were “asked” to meet the same 25% goal, but they were asked to meet only a 16% goal. The other departments are still taking 20%-25% cuts. This happened weeks ago. How did this fact escape the article? After three years of substantially weighted cuts to the other departments you’d think that justice could trim some fat. Apparently not.

  2. Pearl Alquileres says:

    Smaller GOVERNMENT the “hard way” will due.

  3. RAW says:

    What is there to defend? Regardless of the cause, the economy tanked, overpriced real estate crashed, property taxes dropped drastically. Since Counties get most of their funds from property taxes, viola, less money. The budget isn’t any bigger than last year, there just wasn’t much property tax money returned from the state. Oh well. It is too bad.

  4. bear says:

    Yeh, reduce the employees of government. Should have happened two years ago, is it? Back before republican economic policies destroyed the private AND public sectors?

    We used to need those employees to meet the demands of business. “Process my permit overnight!” Now, sadly, those jobs are not needed, and every lost employee is NOT spending anything at local businesses, and has probably left the County. No income = no taxes = no business.

    Anyone really want to defend this?

  5. ELIMITATE C.A.R.B. says:

    What we as Californians really need to do is ELIMINATE government agencys altogether not cut a fireman here or a teacher there.Why do we need EPA,CARB & bay area air quality management district???
    Lets get rid of 1 at a time until all 3 are gone. WHAT A JOKE!!!!

  6. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    I wonder how many of those jobs are management? I wonder what the ratio of management to frontline staff is now compared to what it was in say, 2007, before the big bang bubble hit us? It seems that an inordinate number of SEIU were laid off in 2009 & 2010.

    Remember the article in the PD about the DHS Vital Statistics Office only having 1 employees after laying 3 positions? How it affected the community businesses like the mortuaries and physicians? That’s what the public gets when the frontline employees are laid off and the high paid managers (who are NOT union) remain at their jobs. Afterall, those very same managers are the ones making the decisions, with the blessing of the Board of Supervisors who aren’t interested in micro managing.

  7. Juvenal says:

    From 2003 to the present (during the Reign of Bob Deis), management level jobs were added to the Sonoma County workforce like never before. Even the assistants got assistants. Management jobs also received far greater increases than rank and file employees during this time period. And now it is “working level” positions that are being eliminated. Someone should look into the ratio of management to working level positions in this County and compare with other counties.

  8. ODB414 says:

    How many positions is the parks program cutting? Check out the county’s career page and you’ll see two new promotional positions for fluff management jobs, a business development manager and a recreation and educational services manager. Both $100k+ jobs. Are they going to count the two people they promote as eliminated positions or layoffs? More shell game antics from the county.

  9. ODB414 says:

    I wonder how may of those 63 layoffs will be from the ranks of mid level to upper management? I mean, do we really need an Assistant County Administrator that makes $200k/year in salary alone? The County could hire about 5 maintenance workers for that…

  10. Alex says:

    So now that they will be 223 working people out of a job..I guess that means more foreclosures and less people putting money in the economy..which then means, less taxes and more unemployment benefits being paid out…which then leads to more taxes to pay for those who cannot afford the medical care and income taxes..which means higher taxes and the local shops have less business which means they too will have to lay off…which is a vicious cycle..which brings us back to more lay offs and foreclosures, etc. etc. Still, the working people getting hammered while nothing said of cutting the huge million dollars spent on homeless and welfare. Literally, the Social Progressive Agenda to create a welfare state in the making. However, I guess that is why we let the average Joe Citizen figure out how to balance the budget by saying yeah, cut more employees because it doesn’t effect me. Wow, I guess we really have become dumber and dumber. I suppose In”Zane” and Carrillo (both have about much use as teats on a bull) know what they are talking about…newbie fresh out of college and a non-profit social activist princess…then throw in the average citizen who cannot even balance their own finances…yeah, then we wonder why we keep sliding in further mess. Don’t worry, more layoffs here will eventually mean you will get laid off too. Got to spend money to make money..cannot go the other way…spur the economy not slow it down. There will become a point when you just cannot lay off anymore especially when services and such start to suffer greatly. Those who can move, will do..those with jobs and income will not want to move to an area is slipping and becoming slums…unfortunately, what you will be left with is “Vallejo West” East Bay living north of the Gate…another Cali town becoming Little Oakland. And who do you thank for this?…well, look no further than your mirror and you will see.

  11. Ricardo Sorentino says:

    RE: “Sonoma County government expects to eliminate 223 jobs, resulting in 63 layoffs…”

    Once again, the County talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk. We’ve heard for a year now all the real cuts that were going to be made by downsizing the workforce in meaningful numbers. Only laying off 63 people and eliminating 160 unfilled positions doesn’t seem very meaningful to me.

    The county must be working on a new plan for even higher taxes and fees for the rest of us taxpayers to continue the bailout.

    When was the taxpayer bailout program supposed to end? Oh, I guess ‘never’…

  12. Jerry McGwiggan says:

    What really needs to happen is to cut wages, not positions. We can maintain service levels if we pay more reasonable wages for the jobs. Instead, the govenment prefers to cut which results in less service, but maintain the inflated salaries and benefits for the lucky ones that remain (yes they will complain they are oiver-worked, but never agree to what is really needed). We need cheaper government rather than smaller government.

  13. truth in news says:

    If we were not providing services to every freeloader and illegal in Sonoma County we might be able to stay within our budget. Look at who is creating the most drain on our law enforcment dollar. It is not the person going to work everyday. Look who is bankrupting our medical services. It is not the person who was born here. Look who is using our education system while not paying into it with taxes. It is time to start billing the countrys these folks come from for the services they use and don’t pay for.

  14. Dan Delgado says:

    Long overdue, although it amazes me that we continue to have so many vacant positions to cut. I thought those were axed long ago.

    With some sympathy to those who may loose their jobs, I nevertheless have to observe that they had it coming. Government has lost sight of its principle mission, which is to provide efficient government services to the taxpayers who pay for them. Somewhere along the line that mission shifted to a jobs program providing more and more jobs with ever more generous pay and benefit packages. In the private sector, we pay employees what they’re worth determined by how much we have to pay in order to attract qualified candidates. Not so in the public sector where we have long lines of qualified applicants seeking any open position, especially in public safety. We obviously pay far more to the employees filling these positions than is required and the chickens are coming home to roost. I know the individual employees may not see it this way and to them I can only suggest they go back and challenge their union leadership for negotiating the unsustainable pay and benefit packages that are now forcing these layoffs.

  15. John bly says:

    63 lower paid employees out of 3700 getting laid off. Wow. NOT! Should we be pleased that the remaining budget shortfall will be made up by not outsourcing as much and raising fees on nearly everything? And not a word about pension reform—-

  16. Dogs Rule says:

    I hope they start with firing half the people at Sonoma County Animal Care and Control. That is a failed county enterprise and a total disaster for the 2,000 healthy animals they kill PER YEAR in Santa Rosa. Tax payer funded death camp for pets.

  17. Bill says:

    Public safety cuts are long overdue. The real issue lies with the justice system and the focus on drugs and alcohol. Both categories belong in the medical community and that must be addressed.

  18. Cynthia W. says:

    What if government continued to reduce itself in employee numbers and the public just really didn’t care?

    That, I think, is what scares government the most. That we wouldn’t really care.

  19. Common Sense says:

    Too Little too Late! This should have been started over 2 years ago and now they are so far in the hole it will take massive layoffs or decades to get anywhere near a balance budget. Remember we still have bonds to pay off.

  20. Pearl Alquileres says:

    I hear the “SMART” train people are hiring.