The proposal put forth by the county was to lay off 111 workers–a number that includes 53 from the Sheriff-Coroner’s Office.
“There will be a severe impact to the jail, to our response to assist other agencies, to our response to the public. It’s going to be devastating. When I look at these numbers … I don’t understand the logic.”
Well he’s right, it is going to be devastating–for everyone in the county that relies on county services, of which the Sheriff’s Department and law enforcement are but one cog.
Is it excessive? Depends on your perspective, I would start by suggesting, a 36% reduction in the general fund budget is excessive.
While these numbers seem excessive, they also suggest perhaps that the bulk of the Sheriff’s Department’s money is tied up in personnel. The budget for the Sheriff-Coroner’s office is slated to be cut by $5.6 million. That represents a 19 percent cut or considerably less than the county’s 36 percent budget reduction needed to balance the books. In other words, as bad as it seems, the Sheriff’s Office is actually doing better than other departments and agencies in the county.
Some of these cuts might be mitigated if labor groups in the county agree to salary concessions and furloughs. Many have been participating in voluntary furloughs for nearly a year in an effort to avoid layoffs. The county could potentially save $5 million in salary costs.
The Sheriff argued that the level of the cuts would mean huge operational changes. The department has roughly 90 sworn officers. These cuts would force the closure of the Leinberger Detention Center, which would release 140 inmates and force the county to rely exclusively on Monroe. That would eliminate about 20 to 25 correctional officers. He would also have to lay off 22 deputies, leaving just 14 for street patrols, slash the detective force, eliminate staffing for the drug task force, and make cuts in the gang task force.
Yesterday the Board of Supervisor met and pulled back from this dire scenario. They created a subcommittee to explore how deeply to cut the Sheriff-Coroner’s Office Budget.
Supervisors McGowan and Provenza will serve on the subcommittee. They will likely recommend a lesser amount of job cuts for the department which will mean that they will shift costs to other departments.
McGowan gave only limited reassurance suggesting that department cuts will be deeper than the sheriff would like.
“We’re not going to reduce your staff to the point that puts anybody in the perilous state you are describing.”
Sheriff Prieto told that Sacramento Bee that he was “he was discouraged by what he saw as some supervisors’ dismissive tone about the department’s duties.”
“They made it sound like the sheriff was walking around with a jail and a few deputies,” Prieto said, noting that his staff books more than 10,000 inmates yearly, handles thousands of civil papers, provides court security, a boat patrol, support for area police departments and more.
“I expected more today.”
The Vanguard will have more on this issue later. For now, we shall just suggest that while the Sheriff has a point, that the cuts do seem excessive, there is also the point that his budget is being cut by a lower percentage than the county is overall and given the state of the budget, vital services are going to have to be cut. Complicating matters is the fact that some of the services that the county provides are required by law and not discretionary.
These times unfortunately call for everyone to take huge hits with their budgets. While the Sheriff has laid out a dire scenario, it will be interesting to see if he can find less devastating ways to meet budget requirements.
Along these same lines, it is interesting to note that each of the departments were asked to provide cost cutting scenarios. The Sheriff’s department did submit a budget to the county that called for a $5.5 million reduction of their budget. On the other hand, the District Attorney’s Office was asked to reduce their budget by about $2 million and they submitted a budget that had no budget reductions. In fact, their budget called for an additional allocation of nearly $1 million. That would have left them in a $2.8 million hole. They submitted a budget with full-staffing but needed to cut about 15 and a half positions. This was back in March, but it just demonstrates the fundamental lack of understand that some have for the budget crisis the county faces.
It will be interesting to see where this subcommittee ends up going as they re-examine the Sheriff’s Department and the needed budget cuts to balance what is a 36% general fund deficit.