LA County departments facing additional cuts

Several county departments have been asked to cut an additional 9 percent from already stretched budgets in order to make ends meet, a county supervisor said today.

"We're going to be facing some unbelievable challenges as we look at this year's budget,'' said Supervisor Gloria Molina. "Many of the departments (have been asked) to cut back on what they cut back last year and to cut an additional 9 percent ... very essential services in everything from children's services ... to dealing with health care ... public safety and so on.''

William Fujioka, the county's top executive, and the supervisors were in a closed session this afternoon, and a list of departments affected was unavailable.

Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore told the Los Angeles Times that to cut spending by 9 percent, or $128 million, deputy overtime would be cut and the Pitchess jail in Castaic would be downsized dramatically.

``The sheriff is committed to not laying anybody off. His proposals will protect jobs,'' Steve Whitmore told the Times.

Deputies with to desk jobs would be put on patrol to cover overtime needs, Whitmore said.

"(Sheriff Lee Baca) may be a watch commander. He may go back out on patrol,'' Whitmore said. "Wherever the need is greatest, he will fulfill that role. The sheriff's message is clear. We're all in this together, we all have to make sacrifices.''

Overtime by sheriff's deputies has been the subject of scrutiny by county officials, since an audit found that the department had exceeded its overtime budget by an average of 104 percent for each of the last five years.

Some deputies worked more than 900 hours of overtime in a single year.

A discussion of strategies for better controlling the department's overtime was originally scheduled for Jan. 19 and was postponed for the fourth time today after appearing on the agenda for the Board of Supervisors weekly meeting.

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