The Orange County Board of Supervisors approved a $4.61-billion budget Tuesday which includes deep cuts to the probation department, where some employees have already been laid off and an additional 100 jobs could be eliminated without a new influx of state funding.
Bracing for cuts recommended by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the department earlier this year laid off 31 employees. It closed two family resource centers, which provided counseling and job training, and is reducing beds at its juvenile facilities.
"This is certainly the most difficult time we've had since the [1994 county] bankruptcy. In fact," said Doug Sanger, a supervising probation officer, " ... if we don't get [additional state funding], it's going to be substantially worse than the bankruptcy was for us."
The new county budget is 4% less than the current year's.
The supervisors also cut programs promoting tourism and the arts and eliminated 23 planning department jobs.
No planning employees will be laid off. Ten jobs were vacant and 13 other employees will be transferred to similar positions in other county departments, said Bryan Speegle, director of the county's resources and development management department, which oversees planning.
Under state law, the planning department operates exclusively with fees it charges builders for inspections and new construction. Fewer building permits led to the need to eliminate those jobs -- a move that will save about $2.1 million, Speegle said.
The new budget also allows the county to retain $94 million in an account devoted to paying off the 1994 bankruptcy debt sooner than scheduled. Without that money, the county is scheduled to make annual payments of about $90 million on its $800 million debt until 2026.
Tom Wilson, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said he was pleased with the budget and is confident the county is prepared for the future.
"We are bracing ourselves for not only what the state may do to us in two to three weeks [under a new state budget] but we also understand the next year and year after that will not be easier," Wilson said.