James Rufus Koren and Joe Nelson, Staff Writers
Posted: 06/28/2010 06:23:41 PM PDT

San Bernardino County’s budget for the new fiscal year calls for cutting hundreds of county jobs and holding off on raises for many county employees.

County leaders approved the 2010-11 spending plan Monday. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

The $3.8 billion spending plan calls for cutting 529 county positions. County leaders acknowledged the budget included “painful decisions” but said it will help the county remain on solid financial ground into the future.

“We could not lose sight of the fact that the public deserves a fiscally sound county, and that in the long run the decisions we made today will put the county in the best possible position to maintain public services and recover as the economy improves,” Board Chairman Gary Ovitt said Monday.

Of the 529 eliminated positions, only 85 are filled. Most of those 85 positions are within the probation department and the District Attorney and Public Defender’s offices.

Entering budget deliberations, the county was facing an $89.4 million deficit. A significant portion of that deficit was erased when the San Bernardino Public Employees Association, which represents more than 11,000 general county employees, agreed to hold off on raises for two years and made other concessions.

“I would like to thank SBPEA members for being true partners with the county and helping us get through these tough economic times,” Second District Supervisor Paul Biane said. “The agreement we reached is fair to employees and it will allow us to continue providing residents with the highest level of service possible.”

Another union, the San Bernardino County Safety Employees Benefit Association, which represents county Sheriff’s deputies and other law enforcement officers, voted to reject concessions. Biane said he hopes that union and the Sheriff’s Department can find ways to ensure staffing reductions in the department don’t harm public safety.

“I fully support Sheriff Hoops in his efforts to be creative with scheduling so he can maintain the number of deputies on patrol in unincorporated communities and the 14 cities that contract with the county for law enforcement services,” Biane said.

County agencies outside of law enforcment cut their budgets by a combined $17.5 million.

Supervisors agreed to make cuts within their own offices, as well. Each supervisor reduced their office budget by $500,000.

Supervisor Neil Derry said he dipped into unspent revenue from previous years and laid off one of his staff analysts, which saved a combined $160,000 in salary and benefits.

To read entire story, click here.