Riverside County already is letting go 229 employees but labor and jail-related costs bring on more cuts

 

BY JEFF HORSEMAN
STAFF WRITER
jhorseman@pe.com

Published: 01 May 2012 07:45 PM

Despite an anticipated economic rebound, more layoffs of Riverside County employees will be needed as the county grapples with tens of millions of dollars in future expenses, the county’s top executive said Tuesday.

“We believe that things will get positive,” County Executive Officer Jay Orr told the Board of Supervisors. “… However, we do anticipate a reduction in workforce as we go forward in this coming year. We need to do this because we’re going to have other costs that we’re going to incur in the coming years.”

Orr said he’ll be meeting with county department heads to discuss ways to cut costs and become more efficient.

The county already is laying off 229 employees — about 1.2 percent of its workforce. In the past five years, the county has lost $230 million in ongoing revenue, Chief Financial Officer Ed Corser told supervisors.

Before Corser’s remarks, three economists gave detailed forecasts on the county’s recovery from the Great Recession. Chris Thornberg of Beacon Economics said the Inland Empire’s economy will get a boost from an influx of people seeking affordable housing.

Adrian Fleissig and Mira Farka of Cal State Fullerton were more guarded. The local economy will improve, they said, but at a slower pace.

The current county budget is expected to stay balanced when the fiscal year wraps up June 30. But next year’s spending plan could face a $23 million hole, partly as a result of a projected $10 million drop in property tax revenue.

Beyond that, rising pension costs and new contracts with the county’s unions will add about $50 million in expenses by 2015, Corser said. Those costs are projected to outpace revenue growth in fiscal 2013-14 and 2014-15, he said.

The labor deals eventually will save the county $860 million over 10 years in pension costs, according to Supervisor Bob Buster. The short-term pension increase stems in part from the county having to make up for downgraded investment returns by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.

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