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Four Santa Barbara County cities move to mediation with Sheriff’s cost proposal

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. – City officials announced on Monday that four Santa Barbara County cities will head to mediation with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office over cost proposals.

The cities of Buellton, Carpinteria, Goleta and Solvang failed to reach an agreement during informal dispute resolution negotiations with the Sheriff's Office, according to Goleta spokesperson Jaime Shaw.

These four cities are in a four-year-long contract to use the Sheriff's Office for law enforcement services. This contract lasts from July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2023.

Shaw said that the four cities are aligned in their position that the cost increases proposed by the Sheriff’s Office in the last two years of the agreement are not justified or sustainable nor are projected costs for the future.

This cost dispute started over a year ago.

Shaw said that the four cities hope a fair cost of police services can be negotiated during mediation and listed the following factors at issue:

  • Last year the Sheriff’s Office implemented a revised cost methodology, which resulted in proposed increases for the current fiscal year for each City in the 40-51% range that the Cities disputed as inconsistent with the provisions of the agreement. Following dispute resolution negotiations, the amount was lowered to the range of a 19-21% increase for each of the Cities. 
  • Despite last year’s cost dispute, this January the Sheriff’s Office submitted proposed costs for next fiscal year that represented an approximate 44% increase in cost for services over two years for the Cities.
  • The Cities believe that the revised cost methodology being used by the Sheriff’s Office to calculate contract service costs is inconsistent with the terms of the contract. 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 actual Sheriff’s Patrol costs have increased significantly less than the costs charged to the four Cities over the last five years. The County’s proposed charges will have Cities collectively paying $4.1 million more for patrol hours in fiscal year 2022 - 23 than they did in fiscal year 2018 - 19, a 33% increase. The total cost of Sheriff’s Patrol only increased by $2.5 million during this same period.

Bill Brown, Santa Barbara County Sheriff, said that "The Sheriff’s Office has provided top-quality police services to the cities of Buellton, Carpinteria, Goleta and Solvang for decades, and values our long-standing relationships with those cities."

"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," said Brown. "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."

Buellton Mayor Holly Sierra said "Buellton has a deep-rooted relationship with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, and strongly desires to maintain that relationship. 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."

Carpinteria City Mayor Wade Nomura said that "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. The contract administration has been mishandled and our relationship unnecessarily damaged. We look forward to the opportunity to correct this through mediation."

City of Goleta Mayor Perotte said "We have the utmost respect and appreciation for the men and women of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office. It is with sincere optimism that we enter the mediation process in order to secure a fair and reasonable outcome for both the Cities and the Sheriff’s Office."

Solvang Mayor Pro Tem, Mark Infanti, said "Solvang has entrusted the City's safety to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office for many years. For many current and retired deputies, including a retired Sheriff, Solvang is their home. Our relationship with the Sheriff's office is strong and we desire to keep it that way. However, that relationship is being tested with what appears an unreasonable and unjustified cost increase. I sincerely hope the County, and the Sheriff's office, can readjust their cost proposal to an amount that is agreeable."

For previous News Channel 3-12 coverage on this story, click here.

Article Topic Follows: Local News

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Lily Dallow

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