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County approves budget, layoffs expected

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Sacramento County elected officials approved a budget Thursday that could result in more than 200 employee layoffs, according to county budget officer Tom Burkart.

These layoffs for the 2011/2012 fiscal year are in addition to the 1,299 layoffs the county has made since the 2008/2009 fiscal year, said county spokeswoman Chris Andis.

She added that 1,299 people were actually laid off as opposed to job positions being cut.

The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors balanced its budget for the 2011/2012 fiscal year on Thursday afternoon, closing out a $90 million shortfall. The county has a general fund of $1.9 billion and a total budget of roughly $3.5 billion.

The approved budget is a first version – the supervisors will pass a final budget in September.

While Burkart provided an estimate for upcoming layoffs, exact figures were unclear Thursday.

“As a board member and member of this community, it weighs heavily on me that over the past several years, we’ve laid off hundreds and hundreds of people,” Supervisor Don Nottoli said at Thursday’s budget meeting.

The people who will be laid off attend local churches, shop in local stores and send their children to local schools, he said.

Interim County Executive Officer Steven Szalay estimated that more than 300 job positions will now be removed. That number does not include lost job positions from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney’s office, Szalay said.

District Attorney Jan Scully and Sheriff Scott Jones are responsible for calculating their departments’ lost positions and possible layoffs.

The loss of about 300 positions – which does not include the D.A’s office and the Sheriff’s Department – may translate to about 200 actual layoffs, Burkart said.

Positions are different from layoffs because they can include vacancies. The county also uses a complicated system of demotions as part of the layoff process, which can affect the number of actual layoffs.

The Sheriff’s Department had faced a $26.7 million shortfall, but Jones recently pared down that number to $9.5 million. Thursday, the Board of Supervisors brought down Jones’ budget shortfall to $4.3 million.

Jones was scheduled to hold a press conference late Thursday afternoon. The Sacramento Press will follow up on any information about possible layoffs at the Sheriff’s Department on Friday.

The District Attorney’s office is facing a $6.2 million shortfall in response to the Board of Supervisors’ budget approval. Scully’s office had a $13.3 million gap in February. She brought it down to $8.6 million. The supervisors restored about $2 million to the D.A.’s budget, leaving it with a $6.2 million gap.

In a press advisory released after the budget approval, Scully said the upcoming cuts to her office would hurt residents.

“Arrests take criminals off the street – only prosecutors keep them off the streets,” she said. “It is the responsibility of the Board of Supervisors to fund prosecutions for the entire county – the unincorporated areas and all of the cities.

“Most of the cases my office prosecutes come from the cities. By failing to take that into account, the board shortchanged more than 60 percent of our residents.”

Scully will speak publicly next week about how the cuts will affect her office, according to the news advisory.

While exact layoff figures are unclear, Andis provided statistics showing that the the departments of Human Assistance and Transportation are among other departments with filled positions slated to be cut.

The county’s drop in revenues since the 2007/2008 fiscal year has been a central reason for the county’s poor financial state, Szalay said in May. Since then, the county’s revenues from property, sales and motor vehicle taxes have dropped by more than $100 million, he added.

State budget cuts have also hurt the county, according to Szalay.

Kathleen Haley is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. 

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