Riverside County Sheriff's Department Vehicle
Riverside County Sheriff’s Department vehicle. Photo via riversidesheriff.org

Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff announced Friday that the rates charged to 17 cities that contract with the county for law enforcement services will not jump as high as expected, despite mounting cost pressures.

According to a statement released by the sheriff’s executive staff, the anticipated rate adjustment is 6.65 percent, instead of the 8-10 percent increase that officials previously thought likely.

“The rate increased over last fiscal year’s rate due to still-rising labor costs, other county-directed charge increases, and the impact of the continued reduction in patrol staffing that serves the unincorporated areas of the county in order to meet still recurring budget reductions in authorized county funding,” according to a sheriff’s statement.

The patrol deputy rate adjustment occurs annually and must be approved by the Board of Supervisors. This year’s requested rate change will be submitted for board consideration in the next two to four weeks.

The rate was hiked last year by 5.14 percent, bringing the hourly cost of a patrol deputy to $168.45 per hour in the municipalities served by the sheriff’s department.

Only the city of Moreno Valley openly protested the upward revision to the rate schedule in 2017. In 2015, a 7 percent hike prompted an outcry from elected and non-elected officials from Indian Wells, Lake Elsinore, Moreno Valley, Palm Desert and Temecula, who challenged the justification for such a significant adjustment. They protested that law enforcement expenses were draining their budgets and should be capped.

That challenge served as impetus for the board’s decision to retain professional services firm KPMG to conduct a top-to-bottom review of sheriff’s operations, which concluded in the spring of 2016. KPMG staff are working now to implement potential cost-saving measures, though several pilot projects have come under fire from Sniff, who has argued the Netherlands-based company’s ideas have netted few, if any, positive results.

The KPMG contract was expanded to include overhaul plans for most county agencies, at a cost of $40 million. KPMG’s principals told the board during appearances last year that the county could expect to reap tens of millions of dollars in future savings thanks to reformation policies put forward by staff.

The firm’s most ardent defender, retiring Supervisor John Tavaglione, is backing one of two men endeavoring to unseat Sniff in this year’s election — former Hemet police Chief Dave Brown. The other candidate is sheriff’s Lt. Chad Bianco.

The contract policing rate is retroactive and intended to allow the sheriff’s department to recoup higher operational costs incurred over the previous fiscal year.

The rate reflects the spike in salaries, benefits, equipment and collateral services associated with the managers, clerical staff and other personnel needed to support patrol operations. The rate does not factor in jail-related housing and transportation expenses, helicopter patrols, robbery and homicide investigations, SWAT unit and bomb squad responses, officials said.

“The sheriff’s department has the flexibility to increase or decrease service levels desired uniquely by each community, but all of the staff included in the rate are tied directly to each of those separate policing operations within each community served,” according to the agency statement.

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