The numbers are changing every day, but the most recent hypothetical when it comes to potential layoffs for Santa Barbara County employees sits at roughly 288 positions. That number would translate into around 130 people losing their jobs, while the other 160 spots would be satisfied by currently unfilled positions. The county implemented a soft hiring freeze in December, and many departments had been keeping open positions unfilled even before that.
The county is projecting a $72 million budget shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year.
The number of layoffs to come July 1 depend, of course, on what happens at the state level, on the number of personnel who retire in the meantime, or on any concessions from employee unions. County Human Resources (HR) staff has met with most employee unions one or twice, and talks are expected to ramp up as the June budget hearings near.
In the meantime, many staff members are beginning to get information from their department heads on staff displacements, a process known as bumping, where a staff member with more seniority can “bump” someone in their department with a similar classification out of their position. The complex governmental process goes on until a person is then bumped out of a position with no one below them to replace, and they are laid off. Additionally, the process might mean someone has to move their office from one part of the county to another for their job. “It never affects just one person,” said Interim HR Director Jeri Muth.
According to a document circulated to department heads, the greatest loss will come in the Sheriff’s Department, which is looking at 62 positions being defunded. Of those, 24 are potential layoffs. Fire and Probation are also looking at high-impact losses.
Of course, these numbers are constantly changing, and subject to change depending on upcoming events, so stay tuned. The supervisors’ budget hearings are June 13-17.