by Eric Alfaro –
This week the Yolo Board of Supervisors gathered in a special strategic budget planning sessions to discuss inevitable cuts to the county budget while simultaneously strategizing ways to keep Yolo County performing in a self sustainable manner.
Yolo County now has to fill a $21 million dollar gap for next year’s fiscal budget.
In the last decade alone, public assistance has declined while public protection has increased. Particularly, public protection (District Attorney, Sherriff, Probation, and Public Defender) went up from taking 25% to 35% of the county’s total expenses. While on the other hand, public assistance expenses were reduced from 34% to 29% of the county’s total expenses.
Growing expenses with marginal revenue streams forced Yolo County to dig into the general fund until in 2009, when all modes of funding had finally been exhausted.
The economic downturn will most likely reach its lowest point next year. This undoubtedly means that Yolo County must restructure spending trends to balance the budget and adopt new work policies that will assure sustainability until the national economy improves.
The strategic planning session was designed to examine all possibilities and options. Law enforcement or Public protection is the most funded department in Yolo County.
Although jobs will most likely be lost in order to save money, some solutions are easier to adopt. Ditching the blackberry cell phones and downgrading to regular cell phone devices will easily save Yolo County thousands of dollars. Although pain free solutions are available to save the county money, hard sacrifices cannot be avoided.
The economic problems are forcing the county to rethink and restructure the fundamentals behind the process that provides services to residents. More interdependence between departments, more sacrifices, and more contracts negotiating/bargain-hunting will have to become common practice if the county is to stay afloat.
Public Safety Cuts
The Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig was present and explained that budget cuts could hinder on his ability to prosecute criminals in Yolo County. Reisig stated that major budget cuts could possibly force his office to eliminate up to 4,000 misdemeanor prosecutions for the 2010/2011 year. According to Reisig’s budget planning worksheet, “Crimes such as theft , vandalism, battery and other “quality of life” misdemeanor crimes will not be prosecuted anywhere in the county: Direct impact=Misdemeanor offenders will not be held accountable.”
The manner in which Sherriff Ed Prieto and District Attorney Reisig submitted their scenarios raises questions regarding the possibility of evenhanded sacrifice between departments in Yolo County. While the elimination of jobs, lowering of work hours and salary cuts are options on the table for most departments—the law enforcement departments in Yolo County have opted to portray the budget cuts as a zero sum game. Sacrifices in the Sherriff and District Attorney’s office could be dangerous to public safety, according to department heads.
Interestingly enough, while Yolo County began feeling the symptoms of economic trouble in 2007-public documents show the Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig has received six raises from 2007 to 2009. Public records show that many of the District Attorney’s top staff was received salary raises up until 2008 and 2009. Why did D.A Reisig receive a pay raise when other departments were eliminating vacancies due to the economic troubles in 2008-2009?