Sunday, August 19 , 2018, 7:12 pm | Fair 72º

 
 
 
 

Local News

County Supervisors Discuss How to Fund Operating Costs for New Jail

Board is looking at three options for financing the $9 million needed to move forward

Santa Barbara County leaders were forced to do some soul-searching Tuesday about exactly how they’ll pay for a new North County Jail to stay operating once it’s built.

Though the majority of the funding — $89 million — has been provided by the state to build the facility, the county must come up with $9 million to move forward.

However, a larger question loomed Tuesday.

Sheriff Bill Brown estimates that $17 million will be needed to fully staff and operate the jail yearly. That includes the cost of staffing the jail with 57 custody deputies and 36 civilian support positions.

The jail could completed as early as May 2018.

The jail’s “honor farm,” an aging facility built in the 1960s, currently houses 285 inmates in a space meant for only 161, and houses higher security inmates than was ever intended. The honor farm may be refurbished and repurposed, but no funding has been identified for the project, according to county CEO Chandra Wallar.

The Board of Supervisors is looking at three options to finance the $9 million, with options involving various levels of debt. The supervisors may also vote to fund operating costs from already existing funds, but $17 million annually would “have a significant impact” on discretionary funds in the future, Wallar said.

The jail isn’t the only big expense looming.

Wallar reminded the supervisors Tuesday that the County Fire Department has also been committed money in the coming years, and that increasing retirement costs are also in the future.

A 7 percent decrease in funding for other operations raised concern with Supervisor Janet Wolf

“That’s really significant to me,” she said. “Especially considering all of the cuts we’ve made to date.”

Sheriff Brown spoke briefly Tuesday, saying the jail is having to process more inmates than ever because of realignment. He said the jail would be a major economic driver in the region, and would add about 400 construction jobs in the area.

Brown also called on the supervisors to look at options that have long been mostly anathema to South County supervisors — such as signing off on more oil production and building development — to generate revenue.

“It may require some of you to come out of your comfort zones,” he said.

Supervisor Peter Adam suggested that the supervisors conduct a workshop to look at the county’s budget holistically, also examining pensions in the mix.

The supervisors ultimately voted to come back in the fall for a workshop on the budget, and to meet before that to look at ways to generate revenue.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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