A record of Sheriff’s Office overtime costs.
A breakdown of overtime costs for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, which is expected to spend $17 million on overtime pay by the end of this fiscal year in June. (Contributed graphic)

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors this week approved a proposal by the Sheriff’s Office that is aimed at increasing staffing and decreasing the amount the department spends on overtime.

The department’s overtime budget has not been reflective of actual costs, according to a report presented by fiscal analyst Nicole Parmelee.

In the 2022-23 fiscal year, the overtime budget for the Sheriff’s Office is $4.1 million. However, last year the department spent more than $12 million in overtime pay.

Parmelee said the department is expected to spend $17 million on overtime pay by the end of this fiscal year in June.

Vacancies are the main issue driving overtime costs, according to Parmelee. During the past five years, there have been an average of 26.6 vacant sworn positions in the department.

About 60% were in the custody branch and 40% were in the law enforcement branch.

There are three options referred to in the plan, including short-term and long-term solutions.

Option one is the immediate solution, which is to assist the Sheriff’s Office with filling vacancies. The department will utilize the New Hire Incentive Program and seek other opportunities to hire new staff.

Option two will work in the short term to add six specialized sheriff technicians to help alleviate jail staffing shortages. It will cost $648,000 to implement, using funds from Proposition 172, a sales tax that funds public safety.

Finally, the department will implement a longer-term plan to find more data and reassess the funding in the department in order to optimize staffing hiring and retention.

The numbers of vacant full-time Sheriff’s Office positions.

A consultant says vacancies are the main issue driving overtime costs for the Sheriff’s Office. (Contributed graphic)

According to Sheriff Bill Brown, the staff shortage is something that is seen across sheriff departments in California.

“We are still getting very good quality people, but we are working much harder in order to get them,” Brown told the board.

The department is hiring sworn officers and specialized service technicians with a starting salary of $61,000 to $73,000 per year, custody deputies and sheriff deputy trainees with a starting salary of $76,000 to $92,000 per year, and dispatchers with a starting salary of $66,000 to $80,000 per year.

All positions are eligible for 12 sick days and vacations of 12 to 15 days a year, 13 holidays, a variety of health and dental plans, and retirement plans.

Noozhawk staff writer Grace Kitayama can be reached at gkitayama@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.