More than 200 jobs are on the county’s chopping block as part of a recommended budget that still swelled to $1.836 billion in large part due to hefty capital projects like constructing a new jail and renovating one of two office towers purchased as departmental escapes from pricey leases elsewhere.
A large portion of the 234 positions slated for elimination are linked to Burlingame Long-Term Care, the residential care facility that will close next summer as a county cost-savings measure, and a majority are filled, said county spokesman Marshall Wilson.
Budget Director Jim Saco clarified that 200 are related to the facility and none are currently vacant. Of the others, 31 are vacant. If approved, the eliminated jobs will push the total gone to more than 700 — or one-sixth of the county’s workforce — over the last four years.
County Manager John Maltbie’s recommended budget released yesterday also calls for cutting $1.1 million from Information Services, $1.1 million by eliminating a fire engine company at Tower Road and $2.7 million in San Mateo Medical Center cutbacks unrelated to Burlingame Long-Term Care.
Maltbie is pushing a five-year, multi-pronged attack to keep a balanced budget and battle against a structural deficit that includes union concessions and the assumption a trio of tax measures on the June ballot will pass. The budget also assumes labor negotiations will end in agreements with lower salaries and benefit costs.
However, Maltbie said the tactics are not enough and calls for a "fundamental restructuring” of the county’s organization.
"We have taken great steps toward improving our efficiency and targeting our services more effectively than ever before. Still, we cannot escape certain cutbacks due to the many demands placed on our organization,” Maltbie said in a prepared statement.
Maltbie said the county can no longer assume that business as usual will continue working or that financial help will come from the state or federal governments.
"I am convinced that the only way forward is to remake the organization in a way that will provide financial stability and flexibility to meet the uncertainties ahead of us,” Maltbie said.
The Board of Supervisors next month will hold its annual week of preliminary budget hearings and formally adopt the budget in late September.
The budget’s jump from $1.756 billion currently to $1.836 billion in the upcoming fiscal year is attributed to a number of capital projects include:
• $44.2 million for the first planning and construction phase of a 576-bed jail;
• $9.7 million for tenant and seismic improvements to Circle Star South which will house county departments including 911 dispatch;
• $2 million for Alpine Trail improvements between Menlo Park and Portola Valley; and
• $2 million to take over care of the Devil’s Slide trail once the Highway 1 bypass tunnel opens.
The budget also adds in millions of dollars in additional funding including $2.7 million in public safety realignment, $17.1 million to close Burlingame Long-Term Care and move clients, $3.4 million to provide sheriff’s patrol services to the city of Millbrae and $1.5 million in negotiated salary and benefit increases. The last addition is primarily step increases for certain employees and negotiated raises for nurses.
This year’s budget is considered a breather from drastic cuts, giving departments a chance to focus on sustainable balancing plans rather than trimming their bottom line based on a desired reduction percentage.
The entire recommended budget is available at www.smcgov.org/budget and the County Manager’s Office, 400 County Center, Redwood City.
The preliminary budget hearings begin 9 a.m. Monday, June 18 in Board Chambers, 400 County Center, Redwood City.
Michelle Durand can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102.