County to eliminate 27 positions

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to eliminate 27 positions within San Diego County to help offset a $90 million decline in property and sales tax revenues.

The Health and Human Services Agency Department will lose 18 jobs, primarily adult protective services ombudsmen, due to a $900,000 reduction in state funding for social service programs.

Eleven positions, mostly building inspectors, will be eliminated from the Department of Planning and Land Use as a result of a declining workload due to the economic recession.

The cuts will save the county about $2.2 million.

All of the impacted workers have been offered other positions, albeit “less desirable’’ ones, elsewhere in the county, said Walt Ekard, the county’s chief administrative officer.

“I don’t look forward to days like this and I know you don’t either,’' Ekard told the board. “But in the end, we must make tough decisions that will ensure we are able to balance our budget while still providing critical services to people of this region.’'

More than a dozen speakers urged the supervisors to reconsider any Health and Human Services Agency cuts.

Hilda Chan, an advocate with the Supportive Parents Information Network, said she fears the layoffs will soon expand to social workers.

“During this time of record job losses and mass deprivation, you cannot cut the staff who serve families that have hit rock bottom,’' she said.

Supervisors put much of the blame on the state, which has withheld funds owed to the county while it remains deadlocked over how to solve California’s $42 billion spending shortfall.

“The greatest asset that we have in the county of San Diego is our employees, bar none,’' Supervisor Greg Cox said. “But unfortunately, we have to deal with the effects of Sacramento - the fact that they do not have a budget, the fact that they will not make the decisions they need to make to allow a lot of these programs to continue.’'

Before the Board of Supervisors considered the layoffs, Don Steuer, the county’s chief financial officer, gave a grim update on the status of San Diego County’s financial standing.

Steuer testified that the county has suffered a steep decline in property and sales tax revenue - amounting to about $90 million this fiscal year. He said the shortfall could grow to $153 million next fiscal year.

Steuer said the county’s pension system suffered $2.5 billion in investment losses through December. That, coupled with the state’s financial problems, has made for “difficult financial times’’ for San Diego County, he said.

“It is not a pretty picture, and we fear the worse is yet to come,’' Ekard told the supervisors.

Board Chairwoman Dianne Jacob called the financial update “sobering.’'

“These are tough times and I believe that it is extremely important that our board, county employees and the public understand just how severe the economic times are,’' Jacob said.

“It’s happened to the private sector first, and now its coming down to hitting local government,’' she said. “We’ll be impacted, and there’s no way around it, and unfortunately it’s going to be painful and people will be hurt.’'