Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Created: 03/16/2011 06:58:46 PM PDT

Some San Bernardino County employees may have to pay a greater percentage of their retirement costs if a proposal expected to go before the Board of Supervisors next month is approved.

Chief Executive Officer Greg Devereaux said Wednesday the move may be necessary in order to close a budget gap expected to grow to $125 million over the next two years.

One thing Devereaux said he’ll be proposing to the board in April is that exempt employees – those who are not represented by unions and who can be fired at any time – pay the 7 percent for their retirement benefits that the county is currently paying.

That alone would equate to a savings of about $3million a year, Devereaux said.

He said reducing employee compensation is one of only four ways to close a budget gap, with the other three being to increase revenue, consolidate services, and lay off employees or cut their hours.

For the county’s general and safety employees represented by unions, such changes will have to be negotiated. Devereaux would not discuss the status of the negotiations and what has been proposed thus far.

Bob Blough, general manager of the San Bernardino Public Employees Association, or SBPEA, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Bill Abernathie, president of the San Bernardino County Safety Employees Benefit Association, or SEBA, said the county has already proposed a 13.5percent cut for the probation and corrections officers the union represents.

That 13.5 percent comprises salary, benefits and retirement, Abernathie said.

Negotiations began about a month ago, and the union hasn’t officially countered the offer.

But Abernathie gave a pretty clear indication Wednesday of how the union will respond to the proposal.

“Obviously, we’re not accepting a 13.5 percent takeaway. We’re going to have to come up with some happy medium,” Abernathie said.

If an impasse is reached between the county and its labor unions, layoffs, hiring freezes or pay cuts may become a reality.

To read entire story, click here.