Sheriff agrees to postpone layoffs until after election

Debra Moore
Staff Writer

It took some persistence, but Supervisor Jon Kennedy extracted a promise from Sheriff Greg Hagwood that he would not lay off any deputies – at least until after the November election.

That’s when voters will decide whether to pass two local tax measures – an increase in the transient occupancy tax and a sales tax hike that would bolster the county’s general fund and perhaps provide more funding for law enforcement


“You answer me like my wife answers me,” Kennedy told Hagwood, when the sheriff avoided the supervisor’s request for a promise numerous times.

“I will not lay off anyone unless I have to,” Hagwood said. “I’m willing to keep my staff to the point that it is humanly possible.”

He then agreed to wait until after the election, but cautioned the supervisors that delaying layoffs now could cause more severe layoffs later.

The sheriff and Kennedy sparred for more than an hour Monday afternoon on whether layoffs were necessary at all.

Hagwood pointed to the fact that he began this year with less funding because he cut $380,000 from his budget last fiscal year, and then cut an additional 273,000 from this year’s budget. Plus the supervisors have tentatively approved cutting an additional $500,000.

But Kennedy countered that the sheriff’s budget included $1 million more in expenditures this year because of additional non-general fund money. Kennedy made his case with a series of charts and graphs that he displayed on an overhead projector.

“I see room here without having to lay a damn person off,” Kennedy said.

Though the two men never agreed on their own interpretation of the numbers, they did agree that a swift resolution to the negotiations between the Sheriff Employees Association and the county has to be reached.

“I am so sick and tired of the back and forth between the sheriff’s employees association and the county; bring it into this room,” Hagwood said of holding the negotiations in public. “It’s been an unmitigated failure for the past three years and we need to shine the light of day on it.”

Kennedy and the other supervisors agreed that it was a priority, but that legally the negotiations couldn’t be held in open session.

The supervisors also reviewed the sheriff’s jail budget and agreed that it couldn’t be cut any deeper and Kennedy worried aloud that it could be under budgeted.


Closed Fridays

With most county employees working four nine-hour work days, the supervisors decided to close county offices on Fridays. But after the supervisors made the decision, confusion reigned.

Was it mandatory for all departments? If some departments could juggle employee’s schedules to keep the office open, would it be allowed?

Treasurer office personnel reported that they had people “beating down the door trying to pay fines.”

“It’s important that we collect those revenues,” Supervisor Lori Simpson said.

The board decided to allow departments to make their own office hour decisions.

Supervisor Robert Meacher reminded the board that they “wanted some consistency, at least in areas of interest,” such planning and building.


Senior Nutrition

The supervisors decided to close the four senior nutrition sites on Fridays and close the kitchen in Greenville, which would save the county $43,937.

The sites would provide a Friday meal for seniors that could be picked up on Thursday, and the Greenville meals would be made in Quincy and driven to the site.


Resource Centers

Last year the five resource centers each received $9,500. This year Chester, Greenville and Portola will receive the allocation, but Mohawk and Quincy will not.

That’s partly because Mohawk provides less critical services than the other entities.

“I’m having a hard time with this one, connecting the essential services to that resource center,” said Kennedy, who represents the area. He said it was more of a social gathering place for the area’s seniors.

The other centers spend most of their time helping people in crisis.

The Mohawk center already generates the bulk of its funding and could cover the county’s contribution.

The Quincy center shares space with other entities and can absorb the loss better than the other three locations.


What’s next

The supervisors were scheduled to meet with the probation department Monday, but it was delayed until the county’s two superior court judges could be present at their request.

That meeting was expected to take place sometime yesterday. The board will conduct one last budget workshop Sept. 18 before the figures are assembled for the budget hearings later this month.

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