Intended to improve efficiency and eventually tighten San Joaquin County's financial belt, the Board of Supervisors eliminated four departments and consolidated them with four others.
The changes were made due to a projected $63 million shortfall in the county budget by the 2014-15 fiscal year. It will eliminate four stand-alone departments and department heads.
The board voted 4-0, with Supervisor Ken Vogel absent, to consolidate the following departments, effective July 1:
- Eliminate the Registrar of Voters as a separate department and merge it with Information Systems.
- Eliminate Veterans Affairs and transfer services to Health Care Services.
- Eliminate the Office of Emergency Services and consolidate it with Environmental Health.
- Eliminate Parks and Recreation as a department and create a newly formed General Services Department, which will also include facilities management, capital projects, OES administration and operations.
Additionally, Animal Control duties will be transferred from the Agricultural Commissioner's Office to the Sheriff's Office, effective May 23, or whenever negotiations with affected employees are completed.
The Board of Supervisors postponed a recommendation by County Administrator Manuel Lopez to eliminate Stockton Metropolitan Airport as a separate department and merge it with Public Works.
Supervisor Leroy Ornellas requested that county officials take some time to determine whether the airport's consolidation with Public Works is a good idea and if the county can generate more revenue from the airport.
"We have to decide, 'Is the airport important to us or not?'" Ornellas said. "I don't think we've given the airport enough attention."
An airport advisory committee, which includes Ornellas and Supervisor Carlos Villapudua, will bring a recommendation on airport operations to the Board of Supervisors.
Villapudua and Ornellas said they were also concerned about whether the Registrar of Voters should be merged with Information Technology because of the exemplary job they say that Registrar Austin Erdman and his staff are doing.
"Why are we fixing something that's not broken?" Ornellas asked.
Villapudua said he supported the consolidation only if the Registrar of Voters is allowed to run the same way it is now.
Ornellas said that county officials should wait on the Registrar of Voters/Information Systems merger until Erdman leaves the county or retires.
"We are fortunate that we haven't already lost our (registrar) to some other county," Ornellas said.
"I think it's a sign of the times," Erdman said after the meeting. "Everyone is in deep financial trouble."
Erdman said he doesn't know how the Registrar of Voters' consolidation will work because he hasn't talked about it with Information Systems Director Jerry Becker.
Parks and Recreation's consolidation with General Services won't take place until Jan. 1, six months before Parks and Recreation Director Craig Ogata retires.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.