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Layoffs Loom for Ventura County Staff

If the state goes through with plans to take local property tax funds, up to 600 jobs could be lost this summer.

March 24, 2004|Catherine Saillant | Times Staff Writer

Up to 600 Ventura County government workers could lose their jobs this summer if the state follows through on plans to shift local funding to Sacramento, County Executive Officer Johnny Johnston said Tuesday.

Johnston came up with the layoff estimate after spending three days in the Capitol last week urging Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislators to keep local revenues intact.

Schwarzenegger in January proposed shifting $4 billion in annual property tax funding away from local governments to help the state deal with its budget crisis. Ventura County would lose $17 million in funding each year.

Johnston said the governor "looked good and sounded good" but made no promise to restore the threatened funding.

"There was not a lot of encouragement," he said.

County department managers in coming weeks will outline what services must be reduced or eliminated as a result of the impending cuts. Managers will likely begin identifying those workers to be laid off in late May, Johnston said.

Not counting the shifted revenue, the county is facing a $22-million shortfall for the 2004-05 fiscal year, officials have said.

Workers and a union representative urged supervisors Tuesday to take an active role in deciding who should get pink slips.

Employees who provide services to the public should be shielded from cuts if possible, said Mark Pachowicz, executive director of Service Employees International Union, Local 998, the county's largest union.

"Be involved -- department heads work for you," Pachowicz said. "You should find out if the decisions being made are the appropriate decisions."

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