Buellton, Carpinteria, Goleta and Solvang move to mediation over cost of police services
Following months of discussion, the cities of Buellton, Carpinteria, Goleta and Solvang have failed to reach an agreement during informal dispute resolution negotiations with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office and will now enter mediation.
The four cities contract with the Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement and are entering the final year of their four year contract, set to expire on June 30, 2023. The cities argue that the cost increases proposed in the last two years of the agreement are neither justified nor sustainable, and neither are the projected future costs. The cities hope that during the mediation a fair cost of police services can be negotiated.
“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,” said Goleta Mayor Perotte.
Several factors are at issue in negotiations.
Last year, the Sheriff’s Office implemented a revised cost methodology, which resulted in a proposed 40-51% increase for the current fiscal year for each city. The cities disputed the increase as inconsistent with the provisions of the agreement. Following dispute resolution negotiations, the amount was lowered to the range of a 19-21% increase.
In addition, in 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 also 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 cities say the cost allocation model is flawed, and that 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 cities also say 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 the Sheriff’s Patrol only increased by $2.5 million during this same period.
“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,” said Buellton Mayor Holly Sierra.
“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,” said Carpinteria Mayor Wade Nomura.