Ventura County Budget Plan Includes Funding, Staffing Cuts for Health Programs
The Ventura County Health Care Agency would not have to close any clinics or significantly reduce public services as part of a fiscal year 2004-2005 budget plan county managers outlined Thursday at a special session with the county Board of Supervisors, the Los Angeles Times reports. However, county department heads said that the plan would require the elimination of 224 jobs. Many of the layoffs would be at the supervisory or management levels, so the impact of the cuts on the general public would be minimal, department heads said. Budget cuts would affect the county's mental health division, which would stop providing special education therapy for about 600 children at 22 public schools, according to county Behavioral Health Services Department chief Linda Shulman (Saillant, Los Angeles Times, 5/7). Shulman added that her department, which would lay off 101 workers under the plan, also would have to consolidate two clinics. Ventura County Medical Center would eliminate 16 jobs, but not services, HCA Director Pierre Durand said. County Human Services Agency chief Ted Myers said HSA would lay off 73 workers, possibly eliminating some services for the elderly, and reducing a service program for veterans by 75% (Levin, Ventura County Star, 5/7). Rising retirement costs are partly responsible for the proposed job cuts. According to the Times, HCA estimates that employee earnings would increase by 22% by 2006, but retirement costs would rise "a staggering 249% in the same period."
Ventura County, which is facing a $46 million budget deficit, must cut $17 million from the upcoming budget as a result of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) plan to shift $1.3 billion away from county governments. According to Colleen House, director of the Area Agency on Aging, "It's critical that people understand that the cuts they receive are not the result of some cold county ogre sitting in a Dilbert office. Your board has not been given any latitude in what to do." If approved by the board of supervisors, the layoffs would take effect in late June, after Schwarzenegger releases his revisions to the state budget. County Executive Officer Johnny Johnston said Schwarzenegger may restore some of the reductions he requested in January (Los Angeles Times, 5/7).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.