Monday, June 18 , 2018, 11:43 am | Fair 65º


Local News

Supervisors to Consider Half-Percent Sales Tax Hike

Revenue would pay for construction and operation of a new Santa Maria jail, and program funding

The Santa Maria Jail was saved through last-minute budget deliberations by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, but now, with rising law enforcement and jail costs, a half-percent sales tax increase is being considered for the Nov. 2 ballot.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors will consider imposing the new sales and use tax for construction and operation of a new jail as well as program funding.

The countywide sales tax rate is currently 8.75 percent, above the statewide 8.25 percent, according to the California State Board of Equalization. The 9.25 percent sales tax would be in effect for 10 years and yield about $30 million annually.

Half of the funds — or $15 million per year — would go toward the construction and operation of the new jail facility in Santa Maria, and the other half would be split between alternatives to incarceration and programs for prevention, treatment and reducing recidivism.

A 2007 Blue Ribbon Commission on jail overcrowding found that a new facility alone wouldn’t help the systemic population problem, but that law enforcement has to deal with social issues such as homelessness, mental illness and gang involvement as well.

The jail has been operating at 120 percent capacity, above the court-ordered 818 inmates. In January, members of the Sheriff’s Department told Noozhawk that there were more than 900 people in the Main Jail, Santa Maria substation and medium-security facility at any given time.

The Sheriff’s Treatment Program has had more than 7,000 participants since its inception in 1996. So far, the participants who complete the program show a much smaller recidivism rate than the jailwide rate in the 70s — meaning that more than 70 percent of inmates will reoffend and be incarcerated again.

With the price tag of $26,000 per year per inmate for housing, there’s a real need to reduce recidivism — especially with the state budget crisis forcing some prison inmates to be released to their home jurisdictions earlier than expected.

Recent Grand Jury reports made findings and recommendations that asked county officials to follow the Blue Ribbon Commission’s suggestions, in a June 10 report, and the Sheriff’s Department and Board of Supervisors are required by law to respond to the report within 60 and 90 days, respectively.

The Grand Jury report on jail overcrowding made several recommendations, including finding funding for a new 300-bed jail facility in North County and its operating costs, enhancing community corrections programs and prevention and recovery programs that address factors contributing to crime and incarceration — basically, that the county follow the commission’s findings.

A separate report on detention facilities reported that all county Sheriff’s Department facilities — which include the Main Jail, four substations, the coroner’s bureau and court holding facilities — “are well-managed, and the staff of each facility performs well with limited resources.”

The Probation Department’s facilities are included in that statement, and members were particularly impressed with the Los Prietos Boys Camp and Academy for its increasing successes, including the number of high school diplomas given to its participants.

The Board of Supervisors will meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the fourth-floor hearing room at the County Administration Building, 105 E. Anapamu St. in Santa Barbara. Interested citizens also can watch the meeting online through the county’s Web site.

Also at the meeting, Senior Deputy District Attorney Joyce Dudley will be sworn in as district attorney, after her June 8 win over former co-worker Josh Lynn. Lynn has since been terminated from his position as chief trial deputy by Acting District Attorney Ann Bramson.

The supervisors also will consider increasing rates for mental health services to receive more reimbursement from the state, which pays the county Department of Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services for services to non-Medi-Cal and Medicare clients. Individuals who use private insurance or direct payment constitute less than 1 percent of ADMHS revenues, according to the board letter.

Rates will increase to the maximum allowance for state reimbursement, from $1,049 to $1,129.78 for a day in the Psychiatric Health Facility, for example. Rates for case management, mental health services, medication support and crisis intervention would run $2 to $5 per minute.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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