As California grapples with its $19 billion deficit, some proposed cost-cutting measures could impact public safety in San Bernardino County.


"It's the things that are beyond our control that really scare me. And that's mainly things out of Sacramento," First District Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt said Monday. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's May budget revision would "fill our jails with state prisoners" if some of the cost-cutting provisions end up being adopted.


Mitzelfelt made the remarks Monday at the monthly Hesperia Chamber of Commerce luncheon, held at the Courtyard by Marriott.


Residents shouldn't panic yet, he said, as the May budget revision is part of a negotiating process between the governor and the legislature.


"Every year, the May revise comes out with these draconian, horrific proposals. It's really just that the governor throws something out and the legislature responds."


Closer to home, the board of supervisors are grappling with their own budget issues, which have been exacerbated by the state's woes.


"Eighty-four million dollars, which we cut last year, is being overshadowed by a $94 million budget cut" in this year's budget, which has not yet been approved. "There are historic downturns in these taxes that we rely on, so we just have these gaps."


The board's proposed budget includes cutting 462 jobs, of which 85 are currently filled. But after years of deferring promised raises to help balance the budget, members of the Safety Employees Benefits Association rejected a request to do so again this year.


"That could result in up to 130 deputies being cut. That's the last place I want to cut," Mitzelfelt said. "I will have assumed room temperature" before endorsing cutting deputies: "It will be over my dead body."


In lieu of deferring their raises again, sheriff's deputies "are looking at 12-hour shifts, instead of 10-hour shifts, in order to cut costs."


Mitzelfelt also rejected dipping into the county's rainy day fund to pay for employee salaries.


"We have no intention to use one-time funds or reserves to pay for ongoing costs."


Instead, those funds have been used on things like sheriff's department helicopters, bulletproof doors for every squad car, Tasers for every deputy, a new crime lab, a new Hesperia sheriff's station and expanding and renovating the station in Barstow.


Before the recession, he said, the county has $262 million in reserves, well above the legally required amount.


"That cushion is gone now."


There is good news: The county's lean-and-mean budgeting, he said, has meant good things for its credit rating.


"Every year since the recession started, the county's bond rating has gone up. It's now as high as it can possibly be."


Although he doesn't believe the tough times will end soon, the supervisor said the county will spring back in due time.


"Maybe I'll be serving in some public capacity when we're not in a recession," Mitzelfelt said to laughter. "This county is like a great company: It has great fundamentals and can survive a downturn."


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 760-956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.