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Four cities call for transparency from Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office after multi-million dollar rate increase proposal

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Posted at 11:31 PM, Mar 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-04 02:31:05-05

Four cities in Santa Barbara County are banding together and demanding more transparency from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office after a big fee increase.

Some cities may be looking at shelling out more than a million dollars more than they did last year.

"It was definitely a shocking experience for the city to see that and to see that so late in the game," Xenia Bradford, City Manager for the city of Solvang, said.

The city of Solvang is looking for answers after getting hit with a 37% rate increase from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office.

"We [pay] $1.8 million for basic service, [which is] where we contract for always having one full-time deputy on duty for the city. This is going to $2.4 million — so that's $600,000 [more] for the city of Solvang," Bradford said.

They have now joined forces with three other cities: Goleta, Buellton, and Carpinteria in demanding transparency from the sheriff's office in how it calculated its costs.

Combined, these four cities say they are facing a $5.9 million increase over the prior years' contract costs.

"$600,000 dollars is significant - there isn't anything in our structure right now that we could reduce. We are already working with minimal staffing, so there aren't any more cuts that we can take," Bradford said.

In a statement, the city of Goleta says:

The cities have come together to demonstrate a united position in requesting information that will increase transparency as to the basis for any and all proposed cost increases. For FY 21-22, the proposed annual amount is a 29.4% increase over FY 20-21. The City of Goleta along with the other impacted contract cities are in discussions with the Sheriff’s Office and are in the process of gathering information. The topic will go before the Public Safety Commission and the City Council but no dates have been set.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office says in a statement:

The Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office values its long-standing, positive relationships with the cities of Buellton, Carpinteria, Goleta and Solvang. For many years we have partnered with them to keep their communities safe. We have heard their concerns about the proposed cost increases, which are significant. We are sympathetic to their position about the impact of rising costs, as they mirror our own concerns. We are continuing to work on this issue by re-examining the methodology by which the costs were estimated, and exploring possible adjustments or alternatives. We have and will continue to meet with the cities in search of a mutually-agreeable resolution.

Solvang's City Manager says she met with Sheriff Bill Brown and the county Wednesday afternoon. She hopes to have more answers back from the sheriff's office next week.

In a letter signed by all four cities, they say: "A thorough investigation of this new cost methodology will require a substantial amount of time, and, for this reason, the cities respectfully submit that any proposed cost increases for the 2021-2022 fiscal year will be delayed one year."

The city is in its current contract with the sheriff's office until 2023.