The Riverside County Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved Sheriff Stan Sniff’s request to hike the blanket rate charged to 17 cities and other contract entities for the use of patrol deputies.
The increase will be retroactive to July 1, 2017, and was sought to recoup higher operational costs incurred by the sheriff’s department.
“The rate is still too high,” Supervisor Marion Ashley said. “But the good news is, (hourly) overtime rates are down 8.9 percent. So money is being saved.”
Under the revised rate schedule, the cost of a sheriff’s patrol deputy will rise from $168.45 to $179.65 per hour — a 6.65 percent jump from the previous fiscal year.
“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 released last month to announce the proposed hike.
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 upward adjustment. They protested that law enforcement expenses were draining their budgets and should be capped.
During a May 2017 hearing on a 5 percent rate hike — which the board approved — only the city of Moreno Valley’s representatives protested.
According to the sheriff, the 6.65 rate adjustment will allow the department to cover salaries, benefits, equipment and collateral services associated with the supervisors, clerical staff and other personnel needed to support patrol operations.
“The sheriff’s contract rate is computed only on our exact costs without any `profit margin’ each year,” according to an agency statement. “By law, the sheriff cannot subsidize any city, and the cities cannot subsidize county operations. The department does an analysis of just its patrol operations and determines real costs effectively through its sheer size.”
Cities receive the benefit of helicopter patrols, robbery and homicide investigations, SWAT unit and bomb squad responses without having to foot the bills individually. Contracting entities are further spared the cost of lawsuits stemming from the actions of sheriff’s personnel, according to the agency.
The board also directed that all 17 municipalities that contract with the county for law enforcement services pay increased sums for the sheriff’s use of facilities dedicated to servicing the communities.
Officials said the heftier bills generally stem from county Department of Facilities Management costs to maintain stations, including lights, waterworks, landscaping and custodial operations. The sheriff initially carries the expenses, then passes them on to the contracting parties, each of which is invoiced in proportion to how much they consume.
The largest percentage increase in facilities costs will be borne by Rancho Mirage, which faces a $161,949 bill, compared to $118,850 the previous year — a roughly 36 percent jump. Perris will bear the highest facilities fee in dollars and cents: $595,283 — up from $514,981 the previous fiscal year.
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