Social services hit as Santa Clara Co. finishes budget

The Board of Supervisors is voting tonight, on cutting millions of dollars to pay people who help foster children, public health nursing and the elderly.

January 25, 2011 8:50:08 PM PST
Dozens of jobs were on the line in Santa Clara County, as the Board of Supervisors put the painful finishing touches on a new county budget. Some of the cuts were made last month, but the final decisions were made Tuesday.

In a crowded room with budget cuts on the agenda, a sister spoke up for her brother. Wayne Monroe has schizophrenia and a new lease on life thanks to a public guardian advocate from social services.

"We would have lost our brother without their intervention on his behalf, so that's my plea to please retain funding for these positions," Debbie Daly said.

The effort to save front line social workers came with a little theatrics. The message to supervisors was that some departments are top heavy and that is where the cuts should be made.

"The body speaks to the top, the knees ache, the feet ache, the back aches and they start telling because these are the experts of the body and they'll start telling the top, there needs to be reductions; you need a reduction," social work supervisor Rebecca Perez Ochoa said.

In an effort to close a $55 million budget gap, the county's social services agency did take a $6 million hit.

As many as 107 positions throughout the county will be impacted by the budget balancing maneuvers. With shuffling and pay reductions, there are 31 possible layoffs.

The board president says there is no question services will suffer.

"Everyone is important," Dave Cortese said. "Think of it this way, you lose a drug and alcohol counselor and there's a courtroom full of people that need to be in recovery and suddenly they get no help."

In a last minute move Tuesday, the board did spare two front line social service positions, including a public guardian advocate.

The concern now is that the continuing state budget crisis will make balancing the next county budget even more difficult.