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Sheriff, fire chief present new budgets

Santa Barbara County leaders are talking money this week during the budget hearings.

One of the top issues is how much money will go to sheriff patrols and fire protection.

For the first time in six years, the Sheriff’s Department will not see any cuts in employees.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown has a plan.

“The Sheriff’s Office has sustained some unprecedented personnel cuts in each of the preceding six budgets,” he said.

But this year, his plan means that won’t have to happen, if the Board of Supervisors goes along.

“I tend to get defensive when it’s presented that we’ve continually cut the sheriff’s department and if I was a person out there listening, I would feel like, what are these people doing, they’re not putting enough money towards this,” said Supervisor Steve Lavagnino.

Public safety is almost two-thirds of the county’s regular spending each year. If the sheriff’s plan is approved, that is close to $120 million.

He said it’s needed because it’s been a busy year.

More inmates are in the county jail but the number of deputies guarding them hasn’t changed in years.

“This has place additional strain on our already overcrowded and antiquated custody facility,” the sheriff said.

And then, there are the smuggling boats. There have been 21 in the last year and a half.

“We have been successful at interdicting several panga boats and have seized over 14,000 pounds of illicit drugs with a street value of approximately $36 million,” he said.

Now the sheriff waits and hopes that the board will approve his plan.

There are talks of cuts for firefighters in the county.

In Orcutt, one firefighter position at Station 22 could be eliminated and nine firefighters could be moved from a station in Goleta.

The county fire chief does have some money he could use to prevent all that but for one year only.

However, he needs approval from county supervisors to do it.

“At this point and time, I’d like to come back and really look at all these options in six months, but let me use my fund balance and let me fund both of these critical resources that the fire department needs to provide service,” said Chief Michael Dyer.

Dyer has about $2.5 million he could use to get through the next year but there is still the question how to pay for those services in future years.

The Board of Supervisors will decide how much money will go to each county agency on Friday.

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