P-E STAFF WRITER firstname.lastname@example.org
Nearly 230 Riverside County employees are losing their jobs as officials contend with a projected $23 million deficit, a sluggish economic recovery and mounting financial commitments.
The layoffs, 229 in all, equal roughly 1.2 percent of the county’s total workforce. The Economic Development Agency/Facilities Management is taking the biggest hit, losing 111 positions.
On Tuesday, county supervisors will hear economic forecasts and an update on third-quarter revenues fueling the current budget. The 9 a.m. meeting is at the County Administrative Center, 4080 Lemon St. in Riverside.
Earlier this month, interim CEO Larry Parrish told the Board of Supervisors he thought as many as 196 layoffs would be needed to help balance future budgets. In a memo to supervisors this week, new County Executive Officer Jay Orr said he “advised departments … to begin that process now.”
Forty-eight jobs are being eliminated in the Community Health Agency. Planning, the public defender’s office and the registrar of voters are among other offices losing staff.
County spokesman Ray Smith said it’s hard to determine exactly how much money the layoffs will save, since the final figure depends on the salaries of those losing their jobs and the amount of leave they can cash out.
Some people already have been laid off, and others will lose their jobs in the coming weeks, Smith said. The layoffs are being done now to ensure a full fiscal year of savings, he added. The next fiscal year starts July 1.
“As the economy worsened , the county tried to avoid layoffs where possible, because laying people off reduces the services to the community,” Smith said.
“At some point, however, you have to make decisions that are very difficult about trying to balance finances against services. So far, we’ve done a pretty good job of that. But there are just some decisions that aren’t pleasant but have to be made.”
Among those being cut are 59 facilities management workers who are members of Laborers’ International Union of North America Local 777, according to Stephen Switzer, the union’s business manager.
In its latest contract, ratified last month, the union made concessions such as having members contribute more to their pensions to avoid further layoffs, Switzer said. “Every single layoff represents a tragedy for the family,” he said.
In recent years, the county has trimmed its workforce from about 20,000 employees to fewer than 18,000.
In his memo, Orr said the Sheriff’s Department and district attorney’s office have erased their budget gaps after beginning this fiscal year in the hole.
But problems persist with the budget for next fiscal year. In early April, Chief Financial Officer Ed Corser said the fiscal 2012-13 deficit was projected at $13 million. But Thursday, he said he expects the gap to grow to $23 million because a projected drop in property values will bite into tax revenue.
On top of that, the county expects a roughly $5 million drop in sales tax income next fiscal year as that revenue shifts to the recently incorporated cities of Eastvale and Jurupa Valley.
On the spending side, Orr said costs are escalating as a result of renegotiated labor union contracts and increased contributions to the California Public Employees Retirement System, which is requiring the county to kick in more money — at least $10 million next year — to cover the system’s lower investment returns.
Also, Orr said buying a new public safety communications system and staffing planned jail expansions will cost the county.
Economists are expected to tell supervisors Tuesday that the county’s economy will bounce back beyond 2013. “The County of Riverside still has a ways to go to get back to peak, but the economy is certainly moving in the right direction,” read a report by Los Angeles-based Beacon Economics.
Another report, by Cal State Fullerton economists, said the Inland area recovery will be slow: “We expect the Riverside economy to continue to heal, but at an exceptionally sluggish pace even when compared to the moderate growth of the national and Southern California economies