10:30 PM PDT on Friday, May 13, 2011

The Press-Enterprise

Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff announced plans Friday to issue up to 800 layoff notices in order to balance his department’s budget for next year.

The Board of Supervisors has not yet taken up a formal fiscal 2011-2012 budget, something expected in mid-June, but Sniff said he must start preparing now.

“I have a responsibility to my employees to give them a heads up,” Sniff said by telephone Friday.

To meet budget goals currently under discussion, the department would need to lay off 500 full-time employees after July 1, according to a news release Friday.

But due to the complexity of the layoff process, the department must send out up to 800 notices and already has contacted county human resources and employee unions, according to the news release. Before any layoffs can take place, the department has to take into account issues such as seniority.

“There is a checklist of things you legally have to go through,” Sniff said.

The county faces a budget gap ranging as high as $100 million for fiscal 2011-2012. The gap for the Sheriff’s Department is about $35 million for next year.

Supervisors and county officials in recent months have consistently said they must hold the line on spending and permanently balance expenses with lower ongoing revenues.

Sniff has said his department would need about $260 million in general fund revenue to support projected operations for next year, provided Jurupa Valley contracts with the county on July 1 and supervisors achieve labor savings.

That’s $35 million higher than recommended budget target of $225 million set by County Executive Officer Bill Luna.

Contract cities pay for their services, so any reductions would have to come largely from unincorporated patrol and jail operations, the sheriff has said.

If layoffs are needed, Sniff said none would occur until July 13 after supervisors approve a final budget. The first round would include 100 deputies, according to the department’s news release.

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