Alameda County officials gave more sobering financial news as they released the county's proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year, full of program cuts and layoffs, including 100 positions in the Sheriff's Office.
County Administrator Susan Muranishi presented the proposed 2009-10 county budget to the Board of Supervisors on Thursday morning. The budget would close a $178 million funding gap in the county's $2.4 billion budget, however not without cuts.
Most striking in the proposal is the elimination of 285 of the county's 9,316 full-time-equivalent positions from the last fiscal year. The county has not had to lay off people to balance its budget for the last several years. One of the departments hit the hardest by the cutback would be the Sheriff's Office, which would reduce staff by about 100 positions. The county's Public Protection program — which includes the Sheriff's Office — would sustain the biggest losses, with more than 180 positions cut, including 14 attorney positions in District Attorney's Office and 15 in the Public Defender's Office.
The Probation Department would lose 49 positions, which could reduce supervision of adults and youths on probation.
Muranishi said many of the job cuts would come from positions already eliminated within the last year, as well as positions currently vacant. Less than half would come via layoffs.
Along with the loss of staff, the Sheriff's Office also would disband its full-time Marine Patrol Unit, close its Fairmont Animal Shelter and reduce visiting hours at Santa Rita Jail from five days a week to two. It's also expected the reduced sheriff staffing will impact the delivery of patrol service, the enforcement of traffic violations, the investigation of some crimes and "potentially increase risks to public safety," according to the proposed budget.
Along with the public safety cuts, all other program areas received cuts, including a reduction of $45 million in funding and the loss of 10 vacant positions in public assistance programs.
"It's not a budget anybody's happy with, but it's a responsible budget," Muranishi said.
County supervisors reiterated the same, with Board President Alice Lai-Bitker calling the situation "very grim."
Supervisors Scott Haggerty added, "This is an extremely difficult time and I don't think anyone of us feels good about the cuts to come."
What exactly is to come is still in question. Along with the bleak budget news, Muranishi said the county may have to revisit its budget and make additional cutbacks during the year if the state continues to take money from the counties. Muranishi said the state's issues were a serious concern, especially with state officials warning Wednesday that they face serious cash flow problems.
The county will hold a handful of budget hearings starting June 22. The proposed budget is expected to be adopted officially by the board on June 25.