The Yolo County Board of Supervisors met last Thursday and Friday to discuss worst-case scenarios that departments will face as a result of the county’s $21 million budget deficit.
In the worst situation, more than 200 workers will lose their jobs, including social workers, sheriff’s deputies, building inspectors, lawyers and nurses.
The meeting was a strategic planning workshop, which addressed the departments that were given a prospective 16 to 35 percent budget reduction.
“The worst-case scenario was created for discussion purposes only,” said Yolo County public information officer Beth Gabor. “County-wide solutions were mostly absent from discussion, like furloughs. This was really the worst of the worst.”
In the worst-case scenario, Yolo County will lose 14 percent of its workforce. Resources needed to fight communicable diseases, repair roads, respond to emergencies, prosecute misdemeanors and protect the public from pesticide poisoning will decrease significantly.
“Yolo County is so dependent on state money, which is decreasing, and on the largess of city partners,” said Supervisor Helen Thomson.
Figures suggest certain departments can afford cuts. The growth in revenues increased 44 percent in the past decade, but expenditures increased 77 percent. Health expenditures increased 80 percent, public protection increased 118 percent and public assistance increased 47 percent, according to Thomson.
Yolo County sheriff Ed Prieto believes cutting public safety should be a last resort, however.
“This is really a horrible chain of events,” Prieto said. “I’d rather get rid of administrators pushing paper who make $90,000 a year. Our deputies start at $50,000 a year.”
Prieto created five increasingly drastic options to deal with the prospective budget cuts, the harshest of which would close the deficit but eliminate 18.6 percent of the sheriff’s workforce through 47 layoffs.
Prieto estimated that in the worst-case scenario, he would have to cut his patrol force in half and stop patrolling 24/7.
“Our worst fear is if something happens in Clarksburg or something, it will take us 20 or 25 minutes to get there,” he said.
The worst-case scenario would also cause the closure of the Walter Leinberger Minimum Security Prison, which would release 145-150 felons into the community.
“These inmates would be released and granted irrevocable patrol, which means they’d have to commit another robbery or rape or something for them to be detained again,” Prieto said. “We’re hoping for the best, but we believe that public safety is going to be seriously jeopardized.”
Public safety wouldn’t be the only department hit hard by cuts; the health department and agriculture department, among others, would also have to drastically reduce their resources.
“We have a difficult job balancing community needs and public safety,” Thomson said. “But I don’t see any other solutions.”
Eight more meetings are scheduled in the upcoming months to continue discussing the issue on a department-by-department basis. According to Gabor, the Board of Supervisors will have a better idea of necessary cuts by May or June.
“We are going to spend a lot of time on these issues this spring,” Thomson said.
SARAH HANSEL can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.