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San Joaquin County may lay off 88 employees

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Posted: Tuesday, June 14, 2011 1:54 pm | Updated: 7:10 am, Wed Jun 15, 2011.

San Joaquin County will lay off as many as 88 employees by the end of the month to trim the county budget if the Board of Supervisors adopts a staff recommendation presented Tuesday.

County Administrator Manuel Lopez presented the board with a proposed $1.2 billion budget, up by $35 million from the 2010-11 fiscal year, which ends June 30. It includes 218 eliminated positions, 88 of which are currently filled.

The layoffs, as presented on Tuesday, would delete 69 filled and unfilled law-and-justice positions, 52 in public health and 60 in human services.

Law and justice includes Sheriff's patrol services, county jail employees, animal control, prosecutors and public defenders.

The 13 positions facing the chopping block in the DA's office would affect the ability to prosecute misdemeanor cases, circuit court operations and subpoena services. The Public Defender's Office provides county-supplied attorneys to represent suspects who can't afford a private attorney.

Human services provides stateand federally mandated programs for county residents including foster care, food stamps, welfare, Medi-Cal, adoptions, child and adult protective services, refugee assistance and the Mary Graham Children's Shelter.

Public health includes education on ways to prevent disease, alcoholism and drug abuse; mental health services; county conservator; and emergency medical services.

The proposed public health cutbacks would "decimate" face-to-face translation with Spanish-speaking clients, delay lab results and eliminate public education on HIV and sexually transmitted disease in alternative and continuation schools, Lopez said in his budget message.

Although $1.2 billion seems like a large amount of money, most of it is from state and federal funds, Lopez said. The Board of Supervisors has discretion over only $5.8 million of that money, which comes mostly from property and sales tax revenue, he added.

The five supervisors had some questions for clarification, but didn't comment on the pros and cons of the budget Tuesday. Supervisor Ken Vogel, who represents the Lodi area, said he will reserve his comments on the budget for the hearings in two weeks.

Joanne Smith-Ripp, an administrative assistant for the county Public Works Department the past four years, said she enjoys being a public servant and helping the community, but she criticized the budget proposal.

Smith-Ripp, also a union negotiator, told the Board of Supervisors that Service Employees Internal Union has proposed for the past three years ways to save the county at least $7 million per year, including a four-day work week.

"County leaders said no," she said. "Instead, they laid off workers, adding to the area's already-high unemployment rate."

Smith-Ripp also criticized management getting about $30,000 a year in perks like car allowances, deferred compensation and a better health plan than rank-and-file employees receive.

And the Rev. Terrance Saffold, of the Greater Maranatha Church of God in Christ in Stockton, said that many county workers operate from paycheck to paycheck while helping children, senior citizens and the sick. Yet employee health premiums are about to increase by $100 per month, he said.

"This is food they're taking off their table," Saffold said.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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