UPDATED: Sheriff Requests Approval to Hike Rates for Services in Contract Cities

City News Service Pristine Villarreal

RIVERSIDE (CNS) – The Board of Supervisors Tuesday authorized Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco to hike the blanket rate charged to 16 cities and other contract entities for the use of patrol deputies and support services associated with operations.

In a 5-0 vote without comment, the supervisors approved the sheriff’s 1.63% increase to the base hourly rate charged for the use of patrol personnel. The augmented rate, which officials said is needed to recoup higher costs incurred by the department, will be retroactive to July 1, 2022.

Under the revised rate schedule, the cost of a sheriff’s patrol deputy will rise from $206 per hour to $209.35 per hour.

“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.”

Last year’s hike was 4.09%, driven in part by greater “pension obligations and salary increases” obtained by the Riverside Sheriffs Association for the several thousand deputies it represents, and the costs of increased pensions and salary hikes for executive-level personnel represented by the Law Enforcement Management Unit.

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 to save money.

However, the KPMG work was criticized by the Riverside County Grand Jury and other sources as excessively expensive with limited results.

The city of Menifee in 2020 abrogated its contract with the county for law enforcement and formed a stand-alone police department.

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.

In addition to the hike in patrol deputy rates, the board signed off on the sheriff’s plan for the 16 municipalities under contract with the county to pay higher or lower sums for the sheriff’s use of facilities dedicated to servicing the communities.

Officials said that 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 it consumes.

The largest percentage increase in facilities costs will be borne by Indian Wells, which is facing a $99,447 bill, compared to $78,834 the previous fiscal year — a roughly 26% jump.

Perris will bear the highest facilities fee in dollars and cents: $578,385. That’s a 3.8% increase from the previous fiscal year, when the city shelled out $557,019.

Other cities — Canyon Lake, Eastvale, Jurupa Valley, Lake Elsinore, La Quinta, Norco and Wildomar — are slated to net savings in facilities charges for the current fiscal year, according to sheriff’s documents.

Copyright 2023, City News Service, Inc.

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