"We have been very good about saving money and having adequate reserves," said Supervisor John Moorlach. "But we can no longer rob Peter to pay Paul."
Moorlach says the county must eliminate 210 jobs by Feb. 1, 2009. Currently, he estimates, the agency is building up red ink at the rate of $800,000 a month. Officials say 80 percent of the money that funds the agency comes from vehicle license fees and sales taxes. But income has dropped dramatically with fewer people buying cars and big-ticket items.
Union officials believe jobs could be saved if county executives took pay cuts and gave back perks, like a $750 a month car allowance. But Moorlach says replacement funding cannot come from other departments.
One other option is to get all of the agency's 4,000 employees to take two weeks off without pay. Ingrid Herita, director of Social Services, says there is movement among the rank and file.
"Many of the staff have said they would be willing to take a furlough if it meant saving their job or their colleagues job," Herita said.
The Orange County Employees Association has called an emergency meeting for all social services employees next Monday.