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Riverside County public safety agencies grappling with deficits

By in Press Enterprise on February 5, 2018

By City News Service

Several Riverside County public safety agencies are struggling to overcome deficits in the current fiscal year — with the sheriff’s red ink impacting operations — but the reserve pool is sound and revenues are generally in line with original estimates, a county report states.

“It is crucial that each department look inward and be innovative as we move ahead,” county CEO George Johnson said in an introduction to the 2017-18 midyear budget report set to be reviewed by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Feb. 6. “I am confident our leadership will continue to embrace change, maintain fiscal discipline and transform Riverside County to become a higher performing, effective and efficient organization.”

According to the Executive Office, the county Sheriff’s Department, District Attorney’s Office and Public Defender’s Office are seeking to shrink multimillion-dollar structural spending gaps.

Additional cost pressures are weighing on the Riverside University Health System and the Department of Probation.

Sheriff Stan Sniff signaled deepening concern about the roughly $30 million deficit he’s trying to pare down, mostly through attrition — or not replacing personnel when they retire, resign or are dismissed.

“Attrition impacts all areas of the department,” according to the mid-year report. “The sheriff reported that this is the second consecutive fiscal year the department is required to balance its budget shortfalls through attrition.

“Although the department (has) realized some savings, they continue to see higher overtime costs due to attrition of staff,” the narrative continued. “The sheriff (is) also incurring a significant amount of unplanned, and therefore unbudgeted, retirement payouts.”

Sniff has repeatedly complained that slashing patrol operations in unincorporated communities is his principal means of reducing costs. That’s resulted in a dramatic drop in available personnel to respond to calls in a timely way.

“The sheriff stated … further degradation in staffing levels needs to stop and not plummet any lower, […]    

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