A dispute involving four cities and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office will head to mediation after months of discussion failed to end with an agreement.
Goleta, Carpinteria, Solvang and Buellton contend that the Sheriff’s Office has proposed cost increases that are “not justified or sustainable.”
Sheriff’s deputies serve as the police force in all four cities.
The cities contend that the Sheriff’s Office methodology implemented last year led to proposed increases of 40% to 51%. After the cities protested “surprise” rate hikes and talks took place, the new rates were reduced to between 19% and 21%.
In January, the four cities renewed their concerns when the Sheriff’s Office proposed a 44% increase in cost for services over two years.
The cities contend that the Sheriff’s Office has employed a revised cost methodology inconsistent with the terms of their contracts.
“The cost allocation model is flawed, and the complexity of the model makes it difficult to trust and validate how the costs charged to the cities are calculated year-to-year,” the cities contend.
The proposal from the Sheriff’s Office would have the cities paying $4.1 million more for patrol hours in 2022-23 than they did in fiscal year 2018-19, a 33% increase, according to a press release from the cities. They contend that the total cost of sheriff’s patrol services increased by $2.5 million during that same period.
Noting that the Sheriff’s Office has provided top-quality police services to the four cities for decades, Sheriff Bill Brown said he values the long-standing relationships with Buellton, Goleta, Carpinteria and Solvang.
“The cost of providing contract law enforcement services has gone up substantially in recent years, but it is still significantly less expensive than the cost of these communities having their own police departments,” Brown said. “The Sheriff’s Office strongly disagrees with the cities’ summary of the contract dispute in their joint press release, but since we have made the mutual decision to proceed to mediation, it would be improper for us to comment further.”
Representatives of all four cities said they appreciate their long-standing partnership with the Sheriff’s Office and the quality law enforcement services provided, but contend that the contract “is not being correctly or fairly administered.”
“Buellton has a deep-rooted relationship with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, and strongly desires to maintain that relationship,” Buellton Mayor Holly Sierra said. “However, the proposed cost increase for continued service cannot be adequately justified, nor are the increased costs sustainable for the city moving into the future.”
“This is not about the good law enforcement service being provided by sheriff’s deputies. The Sheriff’s Office developed a costing model it doesn’t have the capacity to properly implement,” Carpinteria Mayor Wade Nomura said. “The contract administration has been mishandled and our relationship unnecessarily damaged. We look forward to the opportunity to correct this through mediation.”
— Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.