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San Diego County Unveils Proposed Budget Cuts

— San Diego County Supervisors heard budget proposals today that reduce the county workforce by almost 600 positions and cut services across the board.

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Above: The County Board of Supervisors unveiled its budget plan for the upcoming year, and it calls for $145 million in cuts and the elimination of nearly 600 positions. We speak to KPBS reporter Joanne Faryon about why the budget is being reduced, and what programs are on the chopping block.

The San Diego County Administration Building. The health of the county's pension fund is projected to decline in coming years.
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Above: The San Diego County Administration Building. The health of the county's pension fund is projected to decline in coming years.

Chief Financial Officer Don Steuer told the board next year’s $4.86 billion budget will be $148 million less than last year’s.

“We have built a budget that maintains our commitment to fiscal stability in the coming year," Steuer said, "as well as meeting the challenges of the future, but most significantly the growing requirements for pension contributions. That unfortunately will result in reductions to services and staffing.”

Under the proposed budget, caseloads would increase for probation officers and district attorneys. Code enforcement would be delayed and the Sheriff’s SWAT Team would shrink. Children’s programs would be eliminated, and lines for land use permits would get longer.

Chief Financial Officer Don Steuer said the Sheriff’s Department has already lost 6 percent of its workforce over two years. The Probation Department has lost 233 positions and the District Attorney’s office could shrink by 130 deputy D.A.'s

Health and Human Services would be the hardest hit. The department has already lost over a thousand people in the last seven years, shrinking from 6,000 to 5,000 employees.

Most county employees whose positions are being eliminated will be moved to other jobs at the county. Only about 50 employees are currently at risk of actually losing their jobs.

Erik Banks of the county employees union says there is no accounting of how reducing positions will affect services to the public.

“What’s the impact going to be for the kids in our community, the disabled, the elderly in our community, as the caseloads are growing astronomically,” Banks asked the Supervisors. “The public deserves to know exactly what that will do.”

Nick Macchione, head of Health and Human Services, said this is the first time in a decade his administrative budget has decreased, but payments to clients will increase due to pass-through payments from the state.

Supervisors vote on the budget next month.

The cuts to services come at a time of record investment in new buildings for the county. A new Medical Examiners Office has recently opened, libraries in Fallbrook and Ramona are opening and a new Operations Center is being constructed on a 38 acre campus in Kearny Mesa at an estimated cost of $500 million.

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