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Alameda County’s looming $113 million shortfall means that dozens of prosecutors, probation department workers and sheriff’s employees will probably get layoff notices. In the worst such cuts some of these departments have faced in a decade, the district attorney may have to drastically reduce prosecuting misdemeanors and lay off at least 40 employees, 20 of them attorneys; the sheriff may have to let 150 employees go; the probation department may lose 50. “The logical place to cut back is misdemeanors,” said DA Tom Orloff, who has been asked to cut $5.3 million from his $42 million budget. Orloff predicted that reductions will force him to scale back prosecuting most low-level offenses, even misdemeanor sex crimes. Orloff said his department will continue to prosecute drunken driving cases. County leaders want public protection departments — which include the district attorney’s, public defender’s, sheriff’s and probation departments — to slash a total of $38 million from their 2003-04 fiscal year budgets. County health care and social service programs are shouldering a total of $60 million in cuts. In April, public protection department heads said they would fight the county’s budget ax because such reductions would jeopardize public safety. Orloff explained that his 20-attorney figure is a low estimate that assumes all those laid off earn high salaries. If he cuts deputies with less seniority, he said, as many as 32 attorneys could go. In addition to the prosecutors, 10 investigators and 10 support staff may be laid off. The DA’s office employs about 155 attorneys, 65 county-funded support staff posts and 62 investigators. Of those figures, about 14 attorneys and eight investigators are grant-funded posts, Orloff said. Sheriff Charles Plummer estimated he would lose 170 positions, and roughly 150 of those would be layoffs. A large chunk of those jobs belong to the 124 civilian sheriff technicians who help operate the Santa Rita Jail, he said. But those cuts still fall about $7 million short of the $19.5 million he has been asked to shave from his about $200 million budget. Cutting the full amount “would make us an invalid,” the sheriff said. Plummer said he lost 54 officers when he closed the North County Jail in 2002, and he refuses to cut any more officers. Interim Chief Probation Officer Wayne Tucker said his department will cut $8.4 million from the $60 million it gets from the county by trimming services and laying off up to 50 people. In fact, this week the department will send layoff notices to 75 employees whose jobs could potentially be cut. Tucker said he is required by law to notify 1 1/2 times the number of affected workers. Actual layoffs won’t happen until the county adopts a budget in late June, Tucker said. Public Defender Diane Bellas did not respond to calls asking for comment, and information about how budget cuts would affect her office was not available Friday. One county leader said layoff numbers, which were presented to the county supervisors last week, were disturbing. “How can we fund a department where we don’t prosecute misdemeanors? That is not acceptable,” said Gail Steele, president of the Board of Supervisors. Many crimes that are classified as misdemeanors are “heavy-duty stuff,” she added. However, the supervisor noted that many budget presentations were done orally. Some department heads haven’t yet submitted detailed budgets that would verify that such widespread layoffs are needed, she said. While Steele stopped short of accusing department heads of inflating the numbers, she wondered aloud if public protection groups had tapped other resources — such as Fiscal Management Reward funds — to stave off layoffs. The system allows department heads to bank funds that they save through shrewd money management. While Tucker said he had no such funding left, Sheriff Plummer estimated he had about $4 million in reward money. The sheriff said his department “earned” that money and would use it for other department needs. County Supervisors Scott Haggerty, Alice Lai-Bitker and Nate Miley could not be reached for comment. There are a few glimmers of hope in the county’s budget picture. The county is looking at tapping other resources to cover the deficit, including earnings from a building fund and restructuring its payments to retirement funds, department heads say. Also, Orloff said, Gov. Gray Davis has indicated that he will try to protect law enforcement grants and vehicle license fee money, which county agencies depend on. However, Alameda County’s $113 million deficit assumes that Sacramento will maintain vehicle license fees. If it doesn’t, the loss of those fees adds $68 million to the Alameda County budget gap. So, essentially, any good news from Sacramento just means that Alameda County’s plight may not get much worse, Orloff said. The county faced layoffs in 1993, but Steele said, “I don’t remember” the cuts being this bad. Supervisor Keith Carson, who chairs the county budget committee, said the county and the state are in the midst of a slump that could last four to five years. “I know that this is the first � of deep cuts throughout the county, for this budget cycle and budget cycles to come,” he said. Around the Bay Area, local governments are grappling with budget woes that will affect prosecutors and public defenders in many counties. In Contra Costa County, District Attorney Bob Kochly has said in past interviews that he will “manage” vacant positions to absorb a 10 percent budget cut. Public Defender David Coleman has said reports that his department will have to eliminate as many as 17 positions are premature, but it was unclear how his department will be affected. In February, the San Francisco district attorney’s office was weighing a variety of measures, including whittling vacant positions, to cut $2.1 million from its $33.8 million budget. In contrast, at that time San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi was planning to expand his department by 45 percent over the next three years because he says his department is understaffed.

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