Sheriff seeking to ease layoffs

The Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department isn't giving up yet on 52 employees slated for layoffs because of budget cuts.

Some have a decent chance at finding another county job before the June 26 termination date. Someday, if the economy and county budget rebound, the Sheriff's Department might want those workers back.

Of particular interest would be 18 patrol deputies and 10 custodial deputies. The department has invested a tidy sum in their special training and would be reluctant to spend again on new recruits.

However, training certification doesn't last forever and keeping current requires so many hours per month in the employ of a public safety agency. That's a problem because county policy frowns on workers moonlighting in different departments.

The solution could be as simple as county supervisors granting an exemption, allowing the displaced deputies to attend sheriff's training sessions and perform periodic "extra help" duties with the department -- as long as it doesn't result in overtime. Supervisors will consider that request at a meeting this morning.

In related news, about 12 of those 52 sheriff's employees should be spared because 10 higher-priced deputies signed up for buyout or retirement incentives. The layoffs were approved in late April while the incentive deadline ended last week.

Among the county's 27 departments, 47 such requests were approved, saving about 25 jobs now and reducing the number of future layoffs, county deputy executive officer Jody Hayes said Monday. The incentives helped some departments, including the child support division and the district attorney's office, from immediate layoffs.

Those leaving voluntarily might not "save somebody today, but they're saving somebody who would have been impacted in the future," Hayes said. "That's a good thing."

When supervisors reluctantly agreed to the 52 sheriff's layoffs in late April, Sheriff Adam Christianson said it meant reducing deputies on patrol from 35 to 28 on a given day, and having 24 detectives instead of 30.

If supervisors today approve six more layoffs in various departments, the county will have terminated 126 workers in the past three months, all in the name of cutting costs to save money in a crippling recession. The county will have shed more than 800 positions in three years, leaving 3,762 people on the work force.

Budget time, too

Also today, supervisors will consider approving a $912 million proposed budget, down $45.6 million, or 4.8 percent, from last year's figure. The interim spending plan would be in place until final budget consideration in September, when legislators should have adopted a state budget.

"The result will be a smaller county government with fewer employees and reduced levels of service to the community we serve," reads a report by Rick Robinson, the county's chief executive officer.

Assessor Doug Harms said he would have had to lay off 11 workers to meet the county's demand of 9 percent cuts in all departments. But supervisors today will be asked to replenish Harms' budget by $350,000, forcing him to lay off only four, as initially reported in early May.

Harms gets special treatment because his people have a good chance at saving the county as much as $1.9 million by defending property tax appeals brought by owners who think his appraisers gave them a raw deal. The value of 965 unresolved disputes stands at about $8 million, of which $1.9 million represents the county's share; schools, cities and special districts take a cut as well.

All of the potential revenue could be lost if Harms' office doesn't have the means to defend appeals within a two-year limit.

Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at or 578-2390.

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