Umatilla County Community Corrections will close its Program Center to cut costs because of expected state budget shortfalls in the coming biennium, according to Community Corrections Director Mark Royal.

Closing the program will eliminate seven positions. Community corrections will eliminate an additional probation officer as it hands over Morrow County's community corrections responsibilities to that county in the coming biennium.

The layoffs would become effective July 1, the start of the next biennium.

Royal met with affected employees Thursday evening.

"I think they had some idea," he said. "These are discussions we had ongoing on budget issues. We keep staff informed about reductions or benefits from a budget standpoint."

Friday morning, he said he had to announce the layoffs to the rest of the staff.

"It's certainly hard for any manager to have to lay off people," Royal said Friday afternoon. "That was a difficult process to announce to all staff today. It's a tough economic time for anyone. ... It makes it really difficult for me to deliver that message. We're at a place where we had to make some serious reductions and that was the only way to account for that."

The Program Center is a 24-hour facility that provides residential living within a dormitory setting, which includes access to treatment. Community corrections intends to continue treatment in its Day Management Program to replace Program Center services, according to a memo Royal gave county commissioners when asking for permission to close the Program Center.

Royal expects Morrow County to take on its community corrections program, reducing funds by a bit more - and the reason for officially cutting a probation officer job, though that position will likely be transferred to Morrow County.

Royal said his department was making this difficult decision based on Gov. Ted Kulongoski's budget projections. While making projections for the next biennium, Royal noted there's still much he's unsure of.

"We don't know exactly what our budget will be," he said. "We don't know actual allocation."

According to the proposed budget, Royal said in a his memo he expects his department to see a 7 percent reduction in its allocation of state community corrections funds. From state funds, Royal said he may be looking at a shortfall of $545,727.

In the 2007-2009 biennium, he said his department received $6,437,385. In the next biennium with reduction of the state budget along with the loss of serving Morrow County, Royal expects the funds from the state to be $5,891,658 in the 2009-2011 biennium.

Community correction's budget comes from state funds and fees, Royal said. The reductions aren't affected by, and don't affect, the county's general fund.

Along with the decrease in state funds, other items were factoring into the cuts at Umatilla County Community Corrections.

One was recent negotiations with the labor union, which brought increases in wages.

And, since the last biennium, Umatilla and Morrow counties are overseeing 70 fewer offenders, decreasing per capita funding. This also will likely reduce the number of employees required to oversee offenders.

Another factor is the carryover from previous years, which will be less because of work on the transition house this year.

Taking all that together, Royal estimates his department will need to cut between $700,000 and $1.2 million over the next biennium.

"Given the difficulty of the decision I still believe this has the least affect to our community and public safety, provides the necessary budget reduction, provides alternatives to the affected offender population and offers the possibility of future growth when finances in the future allow," Royal said in his memo.

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