Faced with tough decisions, Jackson County and the Sheriff’s department have issued layoff notices to some 66 members of the Law enforcement department. County Administrator Danny Jordan, said that the issue of wage negotiations is currently before an arbitrator and the outcome of that may affect how deep the cuts turn out to be. According to him, the difference between the county and the union is some $2.7 million, depending on how the arbitrator rules. If the numbers come closer to the County’s offer of $0.5 million, then the layoffs may not be so severe.
The layoffs will affect the patrol department, Juvenile Justice and the Jail.
According to Jordan, the cuts will most likely occur in the sheriff’s department because other departments within the county have already been cut. The reason for the announcement is because the county has a contractual obligation to give 28 day notice in case of layoffs. When or should they occur, then those affected employees have the right to “bump” to positions they desire and qualify for. The entire process then takes more time before all affected employees land in the proper place.
Jordan said that the county is supported by property taxes and the projections are for a deficit of some 1.6 percent for this year, and it appears that next year will be flat. With the step increases due personnel and the additional $4 million in PERS the county will already feel the pinch.
While the layoffs may not be as severe as expected, the longer the time wait until the arbitrator’s decision creates additional problems for the county. Wage increases will be retroactive, and the contract expired some two years ago. With the passing of time, the amount of back pay accrues.
There is no guarantee of anything during contract negotiations and the arbitrator is another unknown. His decision could be at the low end, the high end or anywhere in between. Once the decision is made, the parties are bound to the terms of his ruling. During a press conference on Feb 20, Sheriff Mike Winters was visibly shaken by having to make the announcement. During his tenure as sheriff, this is the first layoff he has had to make.
Over the last few years, patrols to outlying areas have been much improved over what they were with the previous administration. Now, it appears that may again have to be cut back. However, it appears that some of the neighboring counties have been hit worse by budget cuts than Jackson County. Josephine County has had virtually no patrol deputies for some time now.