Stanislaus County supervisors continued Tuesday to deal with the budget impacts of an extended recession, approving a plan to save many of the 239 county jobs on the chopping block.
The board approved midyear adjustments to a budget that now stands at more than $1 billion and OK'd a plan to address a $23.5 million general fund deficit for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
Officials said 72 jobs could be saved if labor groups accept a 5 percent pay cut, and county departments can preserve 11 more positions by carrying cost savings into next year.
On March 15, 121 jobs will be at stake when the Stanislaus County Employees Retirement Association considers a proposal to shift $12 million in reserves to help offset a $22 million retirement cost increase for the county.
If the retirement board agrees to the transfer from supplemental benefit reserves, it will lower the county's contribution and prevent job losses, officials said.
Retirement rates are the biggest cost increase facing the county next fiscal year, with half of the $22 million coming out of the general fund.
County Chief Executive Officer Rick Robinson said cuts to public services are inevitable because of the magnitude of the budget gap next year.
Among the considerations are closing barracks at the Honor Farm, reducing sheriff's patrols, reducing library hours, delaying road repairs and cutting animal services, alcohol and drug programs, and parks maintenance.
The topics will be discussed in greater detail during budget hearings later this month and in April.
Aid program short money
The county continues to suffer from declines in sales tax, vehicle license fees and other revenue. At the same time, the costs for aid programs such as In-Home Supportive Services are on the rise.
County Supervisor Vito Chiesa was concerned the county has to cover a $2.6 million projected shortfall for the local supportive services program, which pays for home caregivers for disabled people.
Because of the state's eligibility rules for supportive services, the growing program costs are beyond the county's control.
Robinson said the governor and state legislators have tried to tighten access to the program while continuing to provide caregivers for people most in need. But the changes have been resisted in the courts.
"The cost and number of people eligible continues to grow," Robinson said.
Supervisors questioned a $445,000 payment to Waterford to settle a law enforcement contract issue. The city has contracted with the Sheriff's Department since 1998, and for years the city sent money to the county, above the contracted amount, to pay for overtime and other expenses.
Waterford wants the county to return the excess amount so it can spend the money on a new government center.
Supervisor Bill O'Brien said the Sheriff's Department was simply trying to help when it sent deputies to Waterford to cover for officers who were sick or on vacation. He called for an evaluation of the Waterford contract to see if it still makes financial sense for the county.
"I would like to see a contract in which they get what they pay for," he said. "No more free lunch."
The county will review the Sheriff's Department's contracts with four cities when they come up for renewal. The Waterford contract will expire in a little more than three years, said Waterford City Manager Chuck Deschenes, who was contacted after the county meeting.
"I don't think we were getting any free lunch," Deschenes said. "Waterford has always paid its way as much as any other city in this county."
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2321.