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A budget plan unveiled Thursday temporarily spares Alameda County’s prosecutors, public defenders and law enforcement workers from the most severe of anticipated cuts, but it does call for some big changes that include pulling the DA and PD out of the Alameda island courthouse. The county is grappling with a $113 million shortfall, and public protection agencies were asked to shoulder $38 million in cuts to help close the gap. Those departments, led by Sheriff Charles Plummer, loudly denounced the proposal and warned it would lead to crippling layoffs that would affect core areas such as prosecution of misdemeanors, monitoring of criminals and providing attorneys to the poor. The county administrator’s 2003-04 budget plan now cuts fewer services — just $22 million was taken from law enforcement-related departments — but she warned that the county made up the difference with $50 million of “one-time” money that may not be available next year. That temporary cash will essentially buy department heads time to make more cuts later, County Administrator Susan Muranishi told the Board of Supervisors during a budget presentation Thursday. “It is balanced very delicately,” Muranishi said, adding that tough financial times could last for several years. Her plan calls for eliminating nearly 340 county posts, about 170 of which are now filled. While some of those workers could be transferred to other posts, others may be laid off. The county is awaiting the state’s decision on whether to supply $68 million in vehicle license fees and millions in other funds. Cuts in cash from the state will lead to more belt-tightening later this year, Muranishi predicted. Before the compromise budget proposal was presented, department heads had made dire predictions about layoffs. District Attorney Tom Orloff estimated that he would have to lay off at least 40 employees — 20 of them attorneys. Sheriff Plummer estimated that he would cut 150 jobs, among them 120 technicians who help run the jail. A sheriff’s department spokesman confirmed that it’s unclear which of the 170 filled posts on the chopping block will come from public protection, but he praised the new plan. “We feel better about it, no doubt about it,” said Lt. Jim Knudsen. Orloff said he still has reservations about the plan, since his department has to shoulder a larger percentage cut in staff than other public protection departments. While other agencies must reduce staff by 4 percent or 5 percent, he must cut 9 percent of his positions, Orloff said. Nevertheless, “In comparison to the numbers we had, it’s better,” the DA said. “We still had to cut something.” Under the new plan, the public defender and DA will pull their staff from the George E. McDonald Hall of Justice in Alameda, Orloff said. Currently, the PD has a deputy who reports there, while two prosecutors and a clerk maintain offices at the location. In the future, Alameda misdemeanor and felony cases will be tried in Oakland, Orloff said. On top of that, Orloff said, the DA will reduce its welfare fraud unit staff by 15 percent, eliminating staff support for a child-victim interview project and “cold hit” DNA investigations. In all, about 30 department positions, most of them filled, will be eliminated, he said, adding that several impending retirements will offset some of those job losses. The public defender will cut vacant posts and investigative services. The sheriff’s department will shrink its vehicle fleet, cut jail technicians and increase booking fees. The probation department is eliminating its weekend training academy, an alternative discipline program that’s used by 200 youth each month. Camp Wilmont Sweeney, a multifaceted program for teenage male offenders, will reduce its capacity from 80 youth to 45. Probation is also cutting vacant posts and making cuts in janitorial services at juvenile hall. Although many programs will be slashed, county figures show that public protection departments benefited the most from the influx of temporary cash. While the sheriff, PD, DA and probation departments were initially asked to cut $38 million, they will only have to cut $22 million under the new plan. In comparison, county public health and social service agencies were originally asked to shave $60 million from their budgets and under Thursday’s plan they must cut $52.4 million — $7.6 million less than initially estimated. About $30 million of that $50 million of “one-time” cash is “fiscal reward” money that county departments had banked though cost-savings measures, Muranishi said, and it’s unlikely that much reward money will be available next year. The county administrator’s proposed budget will be reviewed during a series of public hearings that begin June 16. Supervisors are scheduled to adopt the budget June 20 — the date that department heads will report final layoff numbers.

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