As I write this article, PPOA, ALADS, and the Department are negotiating the impact on membership caused by the proposed staffing reductions of PDC-South and dismantling of Parks Bureau. The Department, representing a failure of the Board of Supervisors to properly fund the budget this Fiscal Year 2020–2021, has decided during the supplemental budget to re-allocate resources and staffing through these curtailments.
Interestingly enough, the Board of Supervisors and CEO have represented funding was provided to the Department in accordance with prior amounts, and specifically to provide services to Parks Bureau. The Department’s response to this describes a shortage of overall net County costs funding, which is causing these curtailments due to the constitutional requirements and consent decree mandates of the Custody Divisions.
It is not bad enough that the Board of Supervisors and Sheriff are at odds on just about every issue these days, but now this financial confusion is harming members as collateral damage. Why is this necessary?
PPOA has been communicating with Department executives of Administrative Services Division who, from their own representations outlined below, cause me to be concerned that these curtailments may be nothing other than a battle of political wills between the Sheriff and Board of Supervisors. During meetings in September, Department executives informed PPOA of the anticipated budget shortfall of $105 million for the fiscal year. Of that $105 million, the Department could absorb approximately $50 million through the freeze/elimination of vacant items, leaving a need for about $55 million necessary to find to keep PDC-South and Parks Bureau afloat.
Here’s where things got and continue to be interesting. During these same meetings, the Department told PPOA there had been a savings of approximately $17 million in overtime for July and August. These same savings were represented in a follow-up meeting with the savings of September being approximately $8 million. If these numbers were to hold true for the fiscal year, that would represent approximate budget savings of $102 million. If the Department only needs $55 million to avoid the curtailments, why are they necessary?
Additionally, the Department represented to PPOA a projected attrition number of sworn personnel to reach 630, approximately 255 persons higher than the average of 375. Let’s follow the math, using the calculations provided to PPOA by the Department: 255 sworn would represent approximately $45.9 million of salary savings for a full year. Now, as you know, prime retirement season is between December and March of any fiscal year. With that recognition, the only opportunity for full salary savings, during a year of limited to no hiring, would be in the last quarter of April–June, or 25% of the fiscal year. Back to the calculations: 25% of $45.9 million equals $11.475 million.
Adding this $11.475 million in salary savings to the $102 million projected overtime savings for the year equals a conservative estimate of $113.475 million. If the Department only needs $55 million to avoid curtailments, why are they necessary?
As if the curtailments are not bad enough, the Department is now looking to deviate from the past practice of conducting a job fair, choosing as an alternative, a “transfer process.” The new process would involve members completing a preference list, and then Personnel Bureau assigning individuals to new units of assignment based on those preferences. While we all have experienced this process after graduating from the Academy, it has never been utilized during staffing reductions or closure of facilities. The Department claims this curtailment is too large and that COVID prevents an in-person job fair. While this curtailment process could affect nearly 300 employees, a job fair could be conducted at different times over multiple days or at multiple locations by classification, thus reducing the numbers in one location to a much smaller amount than we have in academy classes today. Additionally, we already did a job fair in July — during the height of the COVID pandemic — for the TORA overtime mitigation process. These excuses are getting old. Why are they necessary?
While I am not a budget expert by any stretch of the imagination, the Department’s numbers do not seem to add up to curtailments being necessary. When the Department is asked pointed questions or to provide any documentation justifying the need for these curtailments, PPOA has received nothing but awkward silence. The Department’s focus in our negotiations continues to be about the “transfer process” rather than the anticipated budget shortfall and accompanying curtailments.
If this is a financial problem, let’s identify it, set aside our egos and utilize the many subject matter experts available who could help the Department with obtainable solutions. Otherwise, if these curtailments are political in nature, and members will be harmed in the process, I must ask … Why are they necessary?