More budget woes on Contra Costa’s horizon

Contra Costa County Administrator David Twa delivered today what has become a standard litany of bad news: More cuts, more pain, more layoffs, more of the same.

In particular, he reminded the Board of Supervisors that the Contra Costa Fire Department will burn through its reserves by July 1, 2011, and run out of money. There’s talk of closing as many as four fire stations.

And Contra Costa Chief Probation Officer Lionel Chatman told the board he was perilously close to sending a letter to the courts and advising them that he no longer had enough money to deliver his department’s mandated services.

But the comment that perked up the ears of the other department heads came from Local Firefighters Union 1230 President Vince Wells, who urged the board to consider using funds that would be set aside to reduce the county’s unfunded post-retirement benefits, or OPEB, liability.

Supervisor Susan Bonilla, who is running for state Assembly in the Democratic primary, brought the subject up again later, and said she wanted that option on the table.

If the board taps into the OPEB set-aside as a source of emergency cash, it will represent a 180-degree turnaround from its previous commitment to reducing the liability. It will also generate a political backlash among critics who say the county needs to put aside more and not less money to pay down its retiree health care obligations.

The county administrator will present his budget on April 20 and the board is scheduled to adopt a final spending plan on May 11. Layoffs as a result of the new budget — Twa says they are inevitable — will occur after May 11.

View video clips of budget-related comments below:

Vince Wells, president of Contra Costa Firefighters Local 1230

Local One business agent Rollie Katz:

Contra Costa Sheriff Warren Rupf

Contra Costa District Attorney Robert Kochly

Contra Costa Chief Probation Officer Lionel Chatman

Lisa Vorderbrueggen

  • What would be interesting is if the Firefighters said that they were willing to give up the contribution for the year not just that there be no reserve for it.

  • ted ford

    Watching candidate Susan Bonilla reach for union support is appalling, even more so considering the dire condition of the County’s finances. Too many politicians, particularly Democrats, are owned by the Public sector unions. For a union to give money to the very politicians who determine their pay and benefits is simply corruption and should be illegal. Similarly, the recent US Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited political spending by unions and corporations was extremely ill considered. The corruption of our political system by this type of campaign spending could be our death knell

  • John W.

    Ditto to # 1 Interesting and #2 Ted Ford. In the private sector, management and labor sit on opposite sides of the bargaining table. In the public sector, you have management who stand to gain personally from any pay and benefit enhancements they agree to in the bargaining process, and elected officials doing quid pro quo (job security in exchange for giving the unions what they want). No disrespect intended for the County Administrator, Mr. Twa, who is doing an outstanding job of telling the Supervisors and the public what they need to know.

  • BGR

    You meant current Assemblywoman and former Supervisor Susan Bonilla, yes?

    But still, how is it an Assembywoman gets to dictate terms of surrender by County Supes?

  • Rick K.

    The Contra Costa BOS needs to re-visit its worst decision this century — to adopt the 3% at 50 pension scheme back in October 2002. That one decision is a major reason why the County is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Then-Supervisor Mark DeSaulnier is among those responsible for that fiasco, as were current Supervisors Federal Glovers and John Gioia. Rank-and-file public employees should not be retiring at age 50 and collecting $100,000+ a year for the rest of their lives. Voters must demand in 2012 to know how supervisorial candidates will reform the county pension system. Some candidates are literally owned by the public employee unions. They should be required to wear logos of all of the public unions that bought them off, like NASCAR race drivers. Same goes for the candidates who are “owned” by the real estate developers, oil refinery owners and other “special interests” that really care what happens in Martinez. No one should vote for Senator Mark DeSaulnier’s re-election until he expresses public contrition for his irresponsible vote for the 3% at 50 pension scheme back in 2002.

  • Elwood

    If the 3% @ 50 is the worst decision ever made by the CC Supes, then the decision to build a huge costly county hospital in Martinez when most of the patients are in east and west county ranks as the second worst.

    This decision was made because Public Employees Union Local One demanded it, and when Local One and other public employee unions say jump, the Supes leap out of their chairs like Jack in the Box.

  • Elwood

    Hey Josh, you need to fall back the clock on this board an hour.