After County Labor Deals Fall Short, More Layoffs

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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
The supervisors needed to come up with more than $4.5 million in savings.  They hoped to get there by negotiating deals with labor unions.  They got a few – but not nearly enough.  And since supervisors rejected a controversial furlough plan that they called legally risky, the other option was more layoffs and program cuts.  This time: 76 layoffs – mainly in health and social services. 
Ann Edwards-Buckley is Sacramento County’s Health and Human Services director. She says most of the layoffs will again come from Child Protective Services or CPS.
“Since July 1st we’ve lost 207 staff from CPS and this 43 is on top of that.”
That, she says, is a thirty percent staff reduction. The board also approved more cuts to the county’s health clinics for the poor. Now, the South City Health Center and the Del Paso Health Center will be open only one day a week. If the county can’t secure federal funding soon the clinics likely will close. Edwards-Buckley says that would leave just one clinic in the county to serve thousands of patients.
“To ask someone who has no transportation, no resources, to travel by bus let’s say clear across town is really challenging particularly when they have a chronic health condition.”

Another potential reduction is scaling back or eliminating the county-run senior nutrition services. That includes the Meals on Wheels program that delivers more than 1,300 meals a day. Catherine Williams joined about 30 other seniors at the budget hearing to show her support for the program. She’s 86-years-old.
“I depend on the nutrition program. It’s my lifeline because I have crippling rheumatoid arthritis.”
And this is the last service anyone wants to cut, according to Supervisor Don Notolli. But he says the county’s in a financial crisis – and it’s not going away anytime soon.
“We could be looking at somewhere approaching a $100 million shortfall (next year). This is real and we’re going to be living it day to day for at least a couple years to come.”
The board will wait until the first of December to make a decision on the fate of Meals on Wheels and the other senior nutrition programs. Officials also expect to be back in January with a mid-year round of budget cuts.