Monday, July 23 , 2018, 2:50 am | Fair 68º


Local News

Santa Barbara Police, Fire Proposed Budgets Mostly Status Quo for Next Fiscal Year

Department leaders present to the City Council their plans for handling high turnover and hiring new employees

The Santa Barbara City Fire Department and Police Department have both undergone tremendous turnover in the past five years because of retirements, and leaders presented their proposed budgets and plans for hiring new employees to the City Council on Monday afternoon.

The two departments make up about 60 percent of the general fund’s budget combined.

Fire Chief Pat McElroy, who has been in his position officially since January, explained the department’s proposed $22.5 million budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

It has minimum staffing of 29 people at all times, every day of the year, and has 105 employees total, he said.

Since 2009, the department has had 20 percent of its personnel retire and 80 percent turnover in its administration. Operations Division Chief Jim Bryden was promoted in February, and all four battalion chiefs were promoted to those positions in the past couple of years, McElroy said.

The department also had 15 new captains promoted — which is more than half of the total captains in the department — 14 new engineers, a new inspector and a new fire services specialist, he added.

“We’ve gone through the greatest period of transition I’ve seen in my 32 years here,” McElroy said.

Nineteen new firefighters were hired in the past 2½ years in lateral moves, so people came from other departments. Eight firefighters are graduating from the department’s eight-week academy next week, as well.

“They are replacing over 600 years of experience that walked out the door,” McElroy said.

Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez and his command staff talk about next year's budget with the Santa Barbara City Council on Monday. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)
Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez and his command staff talk about next year’s budget with the Santa Barbara City Council on Monday. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

The Santa Barbara Airport and City Fire Department are working on a survey to examine costs for providing firefighting services to the airport, which the fire department currently does for $1.9 million per year. It’s an issue of costs to the airport, which “bears examination,” he said.

In terms of performance measures, Operations Division Chief Jim Bryden said the department is exceeding its goals for response time — it responded to medical emergencies within four minutes for 92 percent of the fiscal year to date. Firefighters also have contained all 15 structure fires to the room of origin so far this year, which is also directly related to response time, he noted.

There are additional needs for communication upgrades and repairing the heavily-used training facility tower, department leaders said. They are also thinking about making a capital equipment fund for large purchases such as engines, trucks and breathing apparatus.

The Santa Barbara Police Department has 208 permanent employees and about 20 hourly employees, which isn’t expected to change much.

Police Chief Cam Sanchez presented mostly a status quo budget, with $37.6 million projected for the next fiscal year. His department has hired 33 new officers since 2010, including 10 women, which forced the department to expand the locker room.

“We’re only able to hire them so fast,” Deputy Chief Frank Mannix said.

The City Council has authorized police officials to over-hire and put more people in the academy before vacancies actually occur so the department can keep full staffing levels. There are five people currently in the academy, Sanchez said.

He asked the City Council for two additional police officers, at a cost of $150,000 each next year, to patrol the State Street and Milpas Street business districts on Trikkes. The officers would deal with the homeless, mentally ill people, street crimes and “quality of life issues that can turn into a crime,” Sanchez said.

The restoratives policing program and tactical patrol force — on bicycles — are doing a “fabulous job,” but the business community and tourists are asking for more officers and enforcement, he said.

Council members didn’t comment much at the meeting Monday, but Councilwoman Cathy Murillo said she would rather the department keep over-hiring to fill vacancies instead of Sanchez’s request.

Mannix said the department expects to meet its seven-minute response time goal for the year, which has been a challenge in the past.

The newly formed Criminal Impact Team, meant to deal with career criminals, has been working closely with the Probation Department to make proactive searches and arrests related to people on probation or parole from public safety realignment, according to investigative division head Capt. Alex Altavilla. 

The team’s four officers and supervising sergeant have made 74 felony arrests and 164 misdemeanor arrest since January, he said.

There are about 4,000 people in the city who are on some kind of probation, but the Probation Department also keeps track specifically of realignment-related people within that population, he said. 

Department officials also told the City Council that the in-car video systems are finally going live next week. The cameras will be mounted in every patrol car and pick up video and audio, which is recorded and stored.

A Santa Barbara County Grand Jury report found that only the Guadalupe and Santa Barbara police departments didn’t have patrol car camera systems in place and recommended that they do so.

Council members will discuss the proposed budget and make final decisions on the 2013-14 year at future budget workshop meetings, starting with the June 3 meeting at 2 p.m. in the City Hall Council Chambers at 735 Anacapa St.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli 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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