Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood will ask Tuesday for $1.3 million more than the Board of Supervisors has said it will give him this fiscal year.
But Youngblood said he isn’t looking for more staff.
The money, he said Thursday, would only replace the 53 deputy sheriffs he expects to lose to retirement and other public safety agencies over the next 16 months. And that’s only if he’s lucky.
It will take the $1.3 million and 16 months to recruit, hire, train and clear 53 new deputies for street duty, Youngblood said.
And he’s not certain he can attract that many applicants who can make it through the department’s rigorous training.
“It’s a tough time for law enforcement and definitely in Kern County,” Youngblood said.
When that period is over, he hopes to have the same number of deputies on the street that he has now — the same number he’s been authorized to staff by the Kern County Board of Supervisors.
But supervisors will have a tough job Tuesday voting on the sheriff’s request.
Tension between supervisors and Kern County’s public safety departments — Sheriff, Fire, District Attorney, Public Defender and Probation — is high after the board required them to enact the same 5 percent budget cuts other county departments have had to take.
It didn’t help that supervisors also refused to support putting a sales tax measure to benefit public safety on the November ballot.
Youngblood’s request would cost the county more money than it planned to spend.
And there are other public safety agencies that have made it clear they need more money, too.
Layoffs are expected in the District Attorney’s office and the DA and Kern County Fire Department — like the Sheriff’s Office — are cutting back programs and operations they have said are critical to public safety.
Supervisors, Youngblood said, “are between a rock and a hard place. So am I.”
County finances have been gutted by a drop in oil and gas property taxes and rising county pension obligations.
To cover a $49 million hole in county “general fund” revenues and a $21 million gap in property tax funding for the Fire Department, the Board of Supervisors has approved a preliminary budget that would push off losses over the next four fiscal years.
That means more cuts to all county departments are projected in each of those four years.