State

Stanislaus Sheriff layoffs: 52 jobs

Nearly 40 patrol and custodial deputies in the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department stand to lose their jobs under a cost-cutting proposal heading to the Board of Supervisors.

Sheriff Adam Christianson's plan would slash $6.4 million in spending, lay off 52 employees, close three of four barracks at the low-security Honor Farm and eliminate 16 vacant positions.

Christianson intends to ask the board to take less from his department. The county directed every department to propose 9 percent budget cuts; the sheriff says law enforcement should get a higher prior- ity.

"These cuts go too far; a 9 percent across-the-board cut in all departments does not prioritize public safety," Christianson said about the proposal he submitted. "My hope is that they will meet me in the middle."

He said he hopes supervisors will reduce the department's cut to 5 percent or 6 percent, which will let him retain more deputies.

Supervisor Jim DeMartini said it's unlikely the board will make those concessions. Last year, the Sheriff's Department took a 5 percent spending cut when other departments lost 12 percent.

"We're just not going to do it this year. (Christianson's) going to have to cut his budget like everybody else," DeMartini said.

Christianson's "trying to draw attention to himself," the supervisor said. "He needs to be a manager and live within a budget like everybody else instead of whining about it."

County Chief Executive Rick Robinson said more departments will be coming to the board with budget- cutting proposals in the weeks ahead. Tuesday's meeting also includes a budget proposal from the Stanislaus County Library, which plans to shut its 13 branches every Friday and lay off 25 employees to meet its target.

"It is very, very severe cutbacks," Robinson said. "Unfortunately, it's not the end of the reductions for the county."

Shutting three barracks at the Honor Farm means it will have capacity for only 86 inmates, down from 356.

It's part of a push to reduce spending from the county's $250 million general fund by $23 million. The Sheriff's Department's budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1 would be $78.7 million, down from $93.2 million two years ago.

"I don't have anything else I can cut without touching personnel," Christianson said.

Grant Beard, president of the 217-member custodial deputy union, said some deputies could protest the cuts at Tuesday's supervisors' meeting.

"I would hope that the Board of Supervisors would understand that public safety should be No. 1 priority in the county," he said.

"As far as the effects of the cuts, we're closing jail space and releasing felons on the streets of our county. That's a problem," Beard said.

This round of budget cuts will eliminate Christianson's cornerstone public safety program — decentralization.

In 2008, he moved some deputies into substations in Waterford, Riverbank and Patterson. These cuts will compel the department to draw those resources back to its Modesto headquarters.

Christianson said the department started rolling back decentralization in February, and it will be gone no matter how budget negotiations turn out. "I don't have enough staff to make it work," he said.

Eliminating the program could allow the sheriff to beef up the department's gang suppression unit and keep its water enforcement and K-9 units.

"There's still some things that we'll be able to accomplish," Christianson said. "You have to prioritize what's important."

Under Christianson's budget-cutting proposal, the department would lose 18 of its 178 patrol deputies, 10 jail deputies, three lieutenants, three patrol sergeants and four jail sergeants.

Another significant proposed cut in staff is to reduce the number of community service officers from 28 to 14. The officers were redeployed in the past several years to respond to burglaries, vehicle thefts and other lower-priority crimes.

Their presence allows deputies to respond to higher-priority calls. The department hopes filing reports of lower-priority crimes online and by phone will help offset the reduction of community service officers.

The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the basement chamber of Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th St., Modesto.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or 578-2394. Bee Assistant City Editor Adam Ashton can be reached at aashton@modbee.com or 578-2366.

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