The Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco’s request to hike the blanket rate charged to 17 cities and other contract entities for the use of patrol deputies and support services associated with operations.
“We did everything possible to lower the rate,” Bianco told the board ahead of its unanimous vote. “It was originally estimated at over 5%, but we did everything we could to lower that, and we were able to keep it down. We want to lower (the cities’) costs for police services. Every day, it’s a work in progress.”
The increase is retroactive to July 1, 2019, and is needed to recoup higher costs incurred by the sheriff’s department, according to agency officials. Under the revised rate schedule, the cost of a sheriff’s patrol deputy will rise from $183.60 to $188.95 per hour — a 2.9% jump from the prior fiscal year.
“Each year, the Sheriff’s Department does an analysis of just its patrol operations and determines real costs effectively through its sheer size,” according to an agency statement posted to the board’s agenda. “The fully supported contract law enforcement rates include the entire systemic costs involving the running of a (law enforcement) department.”
In 2015, a 7% 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.
The objections led to a two-year assessment of sheriff’s operations conducted by Netherlands-based professional services firm KPMG, at a cost of nearly $40 million. After the company’s audit and recommendations, some sheriff’s management practices were changed, and adjustments were made to deputies’ schedules and assignments at several stations.
Critics argued at the time that the effort was a needless taxpayer expense, while proponents, including former Supervisor John Tavaglione, praised the outcome as positive, netting long-term savings to the county — and cities.
According to Bianco, the 2.9% rate adjustment will allow the department to cover salaries, benefits, pensions, equipment and collateral services associated with the sheriff’s supervisors, clerical staff and other personnel needed to support patrol operations. Insurance costs and internal service fees billed to the sheriff by other agencies were also factors.
Agency officials noted that there is no profit margin behind rate increases, and that they are based largely on changing structural burdens.
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 further authorized that all 17 municipalities under contract with the county for law enforcement services be required to pay higher or lower sums for the sheriff’s use of facilities dedicated to servicing the communities.
Officials said 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 Wildomar, which faces a $102,623 bill, compared to $76,862 the previous fiscal year — a roughly 33% jump.
Perris will bear the highest facilities fee in dollars and cents: $527,514. However, the expense is down 1% from the previous fiscal year, when the city forked over $531,996.