San Mateo County seeking to hire more contractors and short-term employees 

click to enlarge San Mateo County expects to hire scores of new workers in the next two years to comply with the Affordable Care Act. - DAVID MCNEW/2012 GETTY IMAGES FILE PHOTO
  • David McNew/2012 Getty Images file photo
  • San Mateo County expects to hire scores of new workers in the next two years to comply with the Affordable Care Act.

The proposed San Mateo County budget includes a radical shift in local government's approach to its workforce. In response to more than five years of the economic downturn, officials hope to embark upon an extensive campaign designed to make the county's labor pool more agile and flexible.

To secure the long-term financial stability of the county — and attract a multigenerational workforce — County Manager John Maltbie is embracing the "agile organization" philosophy. That school of thought argues that while government needs long-term, permanent employees, some functions — particularly those that change or expire over time — are better performed by short-term employees.

Thus, the county is proposing to spend $9,755,000 on seven pilot programs across a range of county departments. Most of the hiring related to these projects will be of contractors or short-term employees.

The vast majority of that funding — $6 million — is dedicated to a payroll replacement project. The Department of Public Works set aside $420,000 to hire three project managers to deal with a significant backlog of capital improvement projects. Human Resources plans to spend $315,000 to implement technology projects and comply with the Affordable Care Act. The County Manager's Office also earmarked $75,000 for a fellowship program.

The county also plans to hire 154 new staffers in the next two years — primarily to open the new jail and help implement the Affordable Care Act.

County officials say the new hires will only bring the county back to about 90 percent of its pre-recession staffing level.

As proposed, the budget would total $2.1 billion during the 2013-14 fiscal year and $1.9 billion for 2014-15. The difference between the two years is primarily related to costs of the new jail and higher-than-expected 2013 property-tax receipts. County Budget Director Jim Saco said the most significant new expense would be $158 million for the jail.

Despite the lack of significant cutbacks in the proposed budget — in many cases funding would be increased — federal and state cuts have impacted some services.

Low-income housing programs will suffer. Section 8 assistance programs will receive $3.6 million less in 2013, translating to 262 fewer families receiving such assistance once reserve cash runs dry. Some 14 fewer poor families with disabled members will receive government assistance with housing.

If the state and federal government don't restore funding to those programs, Saco said, they are in danger of disappearing in 2015.

Public hearings about the 2013-15 budget will be held Sept. 16-18 at the Board of Supervisors chambers in Redwood City. The board will vote on the document at the Sept. 18 meeting.

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