Stacia Glenn, Staff Writer
Posted: 04/13/2010 07:40:09 PM PDT

Layoffs are inevitable if county labor unions refuse to forgo raises a second year in a row to help close a looming $90 million deficit, county officials say.

County Administrative Officer Greg Devereaux has been meeting with union leaders since February, giving them the low down on budget problems and stressing the need for everyone to contribute.

Although details of negotiations between the county and unions have not been disclosed, some unions say they understand the need to sacrifice while others say the county is asking for too much.

“The county’s biggest expense is salaries. What the county would like to do is convince the unions to give up the raise for this year,” said county spokesman David Wert. “The county will not be able to avoid layoffs if this doesn’t happen.”

A decision needs to be reached by July 1, when the Board of Supervisors is expected to adopt a budget for 2010-2011.

The board voted last month to eliminate pay increases for about 560 non-union employees, saving the county $5 million. Devereaux is hoping unions will agree to similar concessions, which would save an estimated $26.5 million.

Bob Bough, general manager for the 17,000-member San Bernardino Public Employees Association, said sacrifice will likely be necessary to fix the shortfall.

“We want to protect the services that the county provides to the citizens and the only way to do that is to keep people at work,” Bough said. “But we ask that the county also take nonwager related steps to balance the budget.”

SBPEA members did not get a scheduled 3.25 percent raise last year and are being asked to give up a 2.75 percent raise they would have received in July. The combined 6 percent salary hike is written into a standing contract with the county.

By May, Bough said the union will have a prioritized list of “alternatives” to forgoing the raise and members can vote on what to do July 3.

It appears discussions between Devereaux and the San Bernardino County Safety Employees Benefit Association have not fared as well.

The union, which represents 3,100 public safety officers, did not take a 3.25 percent raise last year because of budget issues. Devereaux has asked them to forgo this year’s scheduled 3.75 percent salary hike.

“I think that’s an unreasonable request from the county. It’s too much,” said SEBA president Bill Abernathie.

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