Projected deficit balloons to $111 million; officials prepare
Gilroy – Santa Clara County Supervisor Don Gage said Friday that the county will lay off a significant number of employees to balance its budget.
“People will lose their jobs next year,” Gage said. “We have a deficit of $111 million. We’ll see a plan next month of how we’re going to recoup that, but there will be layoffs.”
County Executive Pete Kutras will present a preliminary strategy for balancing the budget Nov. 1. After that, Kutras will set reduction targets for county agencies, including the sheriff’s department, roads and airports, planning and animal control. The final budget will be adopted next June.
“We’re a long way from what the components of the cuts will be,” Kutras said. “I anticipate cutting staff, but we’re going to work real hard to avoid that because we need every person we have to provide services. We already have more service demands than we have staff.”
County supervisors erased a $126 million deficit for the current fiscal year in part by eliminating 198 vacant positions. Kutras said there will inevitably be some vacant positions to cut, but not in such great numbers.
“Vacancies do get created, but I won’t do a sweep like I did last year,” Kutras said. “I didn’t give department heads any choice.”
Any initial recommendations for staff cuts will come from leaders of county agencies who will be ordered to trim their budgets.
“The only way they can do that is to reduce services and cut people,” Gage said. “Their budgets are down to the point where they can’t do anything else.”
The projected $111 million deficit is about $60 million more than expected. Kutras said the bigger shortfall is due to increases in liability insurance, debt service, salaries and benefits, and workers’ compensation costs. About half of the deficit is due to a increase in funding for the Santa Clara County Valley Medical Center.
Kutras said cuts will be based on demand whenever possible, meaning the South County rural sheriff’s deputy and the animal shelter in San Martin may be safe.
“I will be very reticent to suggest any cuts at the shelter,” Kutras said. “There’s demand there and we’re the only game in town.”