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