Six months of budget battles end Tuesday for the County of Kern.
And it will be a fight.
Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood will make one final attempt to convince Kern County supervisors to leave his budget alone.
Youngblood said Friday he wants $6.3 million more than he’s been allocated to reverse a number of cuts.
With the cash he could keep the Ridgecrest Jail open, fully fund the gang taskforce, keep his patrol helicopters in the air seven days a week, fund the rural crimes unit and do a few other things.
Youngblood’s not the only one asking for more money.
On Tuesday, Assistant District Attorney Scott Spielman will ask, on behalf of District Attorney Lisa Green, for an extra $360,000 to fund three deputy district attorney positions to prosecute misdemeanor crimes.
Both Youngblood and Green have already been told no.
Supervisors told the two elected county department heads that their operations, like all other county departments, have to take a roughly 5 percent budget cut. And they suggested there is excess fat in public safety budgets that can be trimmed, hinting that all departments start looking for savings before asking for more money.
So Tuesday’s discussion between the board and two of its most prominent, powerful department heads should be interesting.
Any break supervisors give to Green and Youngblood, the Kern County Administrative Office has said, will mean more cuts to other county departments.
That would result in dramatic decreases in child welfare funding, the closure of multiple Kern County libraries and the board giving up on a central Animal Services goal: eliminating unnecessary euthanization in county animal shelters.
But Youngblood and Green have said their ability to arrest and prosecute criminals would be dramatically hurt if they don’t get the money.
Green has previously said that prosecution of misdemeanor crimes could stop if she does not get the funding she’s asking for.
Youngblood said he’s running short-staffed in substations around the county and that, if the cuts hit, the quality of public safety citizens receive will be weakened.
Supervisors have indicated they would be willing to give the sheriff $1.3 million in one-time money to fund a 53-deputy training academy.
But Youngblood, who has 12 deputy sheriffs left in the current academy, has said the new academy would only patch the holes in his department.
Currently, he said, he’s losing deputies to other jobs, retirement and resignation faster than he can replace them.
So how will the money be used to fill all the positions he’s had to leave open under the current proposed budget?
Youngblood said it would likely go to pay existing deputies overtime to cover for empty jobs.
Assistant County Administrative Officer Nancy Lawson, who handles the county budget, said the cuts in the current budget are forcing Youngblood to run his department differently.
“It is impacting how he’s doing business,” she said.
Youngblood, Lawson said, would prefer not to change
Will the board listen this time around when the sheriff and district attorney make their case?
“I don’t know. We keep telling them that these are the ramifications of not having these (attorneys),” Spielman said.
But he believes it is the responsibility of the District Attorney’s office to fight for the best level of service to the public.