With finances still deteriorating, Stanislaus County leaders today will consider laying off three more workers and eliminating 22 vacant jobs.
On the chopping block are two social workers and a medical investigator, all employed by public health programs. If layoffs are approved, the county would employ 3,965 people, down 638 from two years ago.
Though still downsizing, the county's overall spending is expected to climb $8.2 million over a target set when county supervisors adopted a $958 million spending plan in September. But the extra money comes from the federal government, is restricted to growing welfare needs and can't be used to rescue workers with salaries rooted in other programs.
The county's general fund, over which local leaders have the most control, continues to sink and is at its lowest point in five years.
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Further "service cutbacks are likely inevitable given the magnitude of the budget gap," reads a report on the fiscal year's first quarter. Officials recently bridged a $38 million shortfall using reserves and savings from having slashed services before the last budget year's end, but they predict a $20 million gap in the fiscal year starting July 1.
Spending on public health must decrease $1.4 million, officials say, reflecting state cuts to Adolescent-Family Life, Adolescent Health, Maternal-Child and HIV-AIDS programs. Those reductions account for the three layoffs.
Last week's payout to settle a racial discrimination and workplace harassment lawsuit against the Sheriff's Department contributes to a mid-year budget adjustment of $1.18 million for "attorney fees and settlement costs." Without admitting wrongdoing, the county, which spent $310,000 on outside legal fees, agreed to pay three female employees a combined $545,000.
The county faces a racial bias lawsuit brought by Latino neighborhoods upset with slow law enforcement response times and hurdles for annexing to Modesto. And officials expect to sink a lot of money into trying Columbus Allen Jr. II, accused of killing a California Highway Patrol officer in February 2006 near Salida. The trial was moved to Sacramento and is scheduled to begin in January.
Retirement costs are expected to rise again next year, officials say. And labor unions will want more for members; bargaining this year are units representing sworn sheriff's deputies, deputies working in jails, sheriff's supervisors and district attorney investigators.
Adding $8.2 million to overall spending would bring the county's total budget to about $966.3 million, nearly equivalent to last year's spending plan. But this year's relied on several millions of dollars in stimulus grants and other one-time funding.
Expecting to lose $30 million in raids by state officials, county leaders have cut programs for seniors and laid off janitors, mechanics and printers. They are using general fund money from other programs to offset $1.4 million in property tax breaks for farmers previously covered by the state.
On the Net: www.stancounty.com/bos/agenda/2009/Ag11-03-09.pdf.
Today's Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. in the basement chamber at Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th St., Modesto.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2390.