MEDFORD, Ore. — Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters held a press conference Wednesday afternoon to confirm that employees have received their pink slips. The sheriff says those 66 employees will lose their jobs unless the office can find more sources of funding.
Sheriff Winters is putting the blame on the federal government. He says decreased federal funding is forcing counties to cut back. Now he says he needs to make layoffs to balance the budget. Winters said the 66 layoffs will be across the board, including patrols, marine, records, civil, and jail staff; that’s about a third of all sheriff’s office employees.
Winters said the department’s budget was set by the county last year, and said there has been a continued decrease in funding over the last few years. He added that this year’s decrease in funding was not significantly larger compared to previous years. He said the only way to close the multi-million dollar budget gap was with layoffs, because personnel takes up 87% of the department’s budget.
Winters said if more funding is found, he can avoid layoffs, but said he does not know where that would come from. At any rate, he will begin working with county leaders to find ways to prevent laying off employees. The county is currently in negotiations with the sheriff’s employees association on a new contract.
Sheriff Winters would not comment on whether the layoffs have any connection to the arbitration with the Sheriff’s Employees Association. He also would not comment on why the decision on layoffs was made now, as opposed to earlier in the fiscal year when the current budget was set.
The County and the Jackson County Sheriff Employee Association are currently in arbitration over a retroactive contract. A decision is expected by the end of the month on whether sheriff’s employees will receive increased compensation of either half a million dollars, as the county has outlined, or about $3.2 million determined by the employee association. Either way, cuts will be coming to the Sheriff’s Office.