County Pulse

Labor talks are factor in balancing Stanislaus County’s budget

kcarlson@modbee.comMay 30, 2014 

Stanislaus County leaders are poised to hold discussions on the preliminary budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Officials are promising a modified “rollover” of this year’s budget, meaning the county will mostly continue with its strategy of recovering from the fiscal crisis of a few years ago.

Contracts with all of the unions that represent county employees are set to expire June 30, so compensation packages for employees who endured pay cuts during the economic slump could be the biggest factor in balancing the new budget.

The county chief executive office is recommending that supervisors approve a $1.03 billion preliminary budget in June. It will serve as an interim spending plan until a final budget is adopted in September.

Union representatives have been speaking at recent meetings, arguing that pay for public employees in Stanislaus County is falling behind wage gains in other counties where the economy has bounced back. The unions could dominate the microphone at a budget hearing scheduled for 9 a.m. June 10.

The Sheriff’s Department has especially struggled to hire deputies to staff the county jails. Vacancies have been created by deputies going to work for higher-paying agencies within a 100-mile radius. But other labor groups are clamoring for raises.

The Board of Supervisors could continue the budget hearing June 11 and 12 if necessary. The hearing will be held in the board chambers at Tenth Street Place, at 1010 10th St., in downtown Modesto.

Another potential budget issue is whether any funds are committed to hiring additional call takers at the Stanislaus Regional 911 center. Modesto Police Chief Galen Carroll recently created a stir with a critical study on operation of the regional dispatch center. It once again raised concerns about a shortage of workers to answer 911 calls.

According to complaints, dispatchers have to put police officers and sheriff’s deputies on hold while they answer emergency calls.

County CEO Stan Risen released a detailed rebuttal of the Jackman Associates study, underscoring what he says are numerous errors in the report. At its next meeting in June, the commission overseeing the Stanislaus Regional 911 joint powers authority could consider whether another study on dispatch center operations is worth the time and expense. The county, Modesto, Newman and Modesto Regional Fire Authority have representatives on the JPA board.

Tuesday’s election will have no effect on formulating a county budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year. Supervisors Dick Monteith and Terry Withrow are seeking re-election in the two-way races on the primary ballot. The voting will determine who will fill those seats on the five-member Board of Supervisors, but the incumbents’ terms do not expire until year’s end.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or (209) 578-2321.

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