San Benito County supervisors on Tuesday rescinded two sheriff’s department layoffs during a special meeting in which the budget was the main topic of discussion.
At the meeting, supervisors reversed two layoffs that had been approved May 29. The layoffs came as part of a package to eliminate nearly 30 positions in the county to fill an anticipated $5 million deficit.
County Administrative Officer Rich Inman shared a spreadsheet that showed how much each department was asked to cut from its budget for 2012-13 as well as the actual numbers returned by department heads. Inman explained that since he asked the departments for $3.5 million in total cuts, the number needed to fill the gap went up due to other post-employment benefits that were unanticipated earlier in the budget discussions. As of Tuesday, the county still had to find $300,894 from the total Inman requested to be cut from departments.
“Sometimes the perception is that we aren’t doing anything,” Inman said, regarding the spreadsheet. “I want to show where we’ve cut $3.5 million.”
The decision to rescind the layoff notices for two deputies from the sheriff’s department came largely because the county is receiving realignment funding through AB 109 to cover the cost of three correctional technicians that were included as part of the budget. Inman spoke with Sheriff Darren Thompson at the request of Supervisor Jerry Muenzer to see if the department head thought it would be better to add back corrections officers or deputies. He told Inman he would like the deputy positions. The layoff list approved in May included eight sheriff’s deputies and three correctional officers.
Inman reported some numbers that Supervisor Margie Barrios had shared with him. According to her figures, the county has grown by 2,000 residents since the early 1990s. In that time, the number of sworn officers in the sheriff’s department grew from 11 to 19.
Inman offered the statistic after one of the public speakers had said most of the growth had been in the county because of the sewer moratorium in the city of Hollister, but Inman was clear to say he wasn’t arguing for or against cuts to the sheriff’s department based on those figures.
All five supervisors supported the move, even though Supervisor Margie Barrios noted that they would still need to cut in other departments to fill a gap.
The supervisors agreed to start budget hearings on July 23, but said they will continue to work on closing the gap up to the hearings. The ad-hoc budget committee will continue to meet with department heads and some bargaining units, including the Service Employees International Union Local 521, have agreed to meet regarding employee concessions.
The supervisors did not make decisions on further cuts to non-mandated services such as contributions to the Economic Development Corporation, community-based organizations or the San Benito County Free Library. Members of the public and a handful of employees talked about the services they feel should be a priority. About half a dozen people talked in favor of keeping the library open, while a few others touched on the importance of the sheriff’s department and the district attorney’s office to public safety.