Supervisors delay public safety layoffs

San Benito County Sheriff Darren Thompson

The San Benito County supervisors agreed to delay the layoffs for public safety employees at the June 19 meeting, where they agreed to make the layoffs effective on Aug. 15 instead of July 1.

Sheriff Darren Thompson had approached the board during an agenda item on the budget and asked to have the layoffs for two patrol deputies delayed until Aug. 1 to “give me some time to look at some creative ideas.”

“I voted against the layoffs in the first place,” said Supervisor Anthony Botelho. “I don’t object to extending it out until we have everything in front of us.”

Supervisor Robert Rivas asked what impact it would have to delay the layoffs. County Administrative Officer Rich Inman said the offices would not realize the full 12-month savings that had been included in the budget, and would have to make up for the money elsewhere.

“He believes he can pay for this and wants an opportunity to explore it,” Inman said, of Thompson.

Supervisor Margie Barrios made the suggestion that the supervisors delay the layoffs to all public safety employees until Aug. 1, including the sheriff’s department, probation department and the district attorney’s office.

“So much is up in the air,” Barrios said. “We are in negotiations. We don’t have the numbers.”

Barrios, who serves on the ad-hoc budget committee with Rivas, has continued to meet with departments and agencies. She said she had talked to one of the community-based organizations that is funded through the general fund – Advocacy, Inc. A representative said if the group loses the county funding, it could lose funding from other sources. The agency provides the long-term care ombudsman program and patients’ rights advocate program in San Benito and Santa Cruz counties. She said other departments also have ideas for saving money, such as the IT department, but Barrios said the amount of savings would not be presented until July.

Supervisor De La Cruz wanted the department heads to know that if they didn’t make the cuts now and cannot realize any savings, they would have to make deeper cuts in December to make up for the difference.

Jacki Credico, a human resources analyst, said with budget hearings starting on July 23, the Aug. 1 layoff date would be too soon for the supervisors to make decisions based on the outcome of the hearings. The supervisors agreed to make the effective date Aug. 15.

At the same meeting, Ron Ross, the agricultural commissioner for San Benito County, said his department would likely have to cut wildlife services to meet the budget target for his department.

“The largest non-mandated service is wildlife services,” he said. “It removes wildlife from situations that are a nuisance, creates loss of livestock or health issue, or is a risk to public safety.”

He noted the wildlife services officer removed two mountain lions last year. The service is $73,000 a year, though Ross said the United States Department of Agriculture agreed to provide the service for $56,000 if the officer were to be directed to another county one week per month.

“I get quite a few calls and emails,” said Supervisor Jerry Muenzer, whose rural district encompasses the Ridgemark area down to the southern part of the county. “I’m support of it because it is a health and safety issue. We cannot remove it totally.”