By Joshua Molina
Noozhawk Staff Writer
Within the next two years Buellton and Solvang likely will begin to pay the full cost of law enforcement services provided by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, ending a situation in which the county partially subsidized law-enforcement services in those cities.
The county Board of Supervisors voted to approve renegotiated contracts at its Tuesday meeting.
The cities of Goleta, Carpinteria, Buellton and Solvang contract with the county for law enforcement services.
Buellton and Solvang will see increases of 27 and 29 percent, respectively, which will be phased in over two years. The county will switch from a full-time-equivalent (FTE) staffing model to charging for actual service-hour costs.
Fourth District Supervisor Peter Adam expressed his frustration with decades of subsidies to the incorporated cities.
“They have a choice to make,” Adam said. “You need to just tell them how much it is going to cost and they can do their own police department if it’s cheaper or not. I understand the empathy for a situation that is going to cause some discomfort, but at the same time I don’t know why nobody has empathy for the people of Orcutt for taking service hours out of Orcutt or eastern Goleta Valley.”
Buellton has contracted with the county for law enforcement since it incorporated in 1992.
The cost for the county to provide law enforcement services to Buellton in the 2018-19 fiscal year is $2,158,416, a 27-percent increase from last fiscal year. The county will subsidize Buellton by $372, 211.
Solvang has contracted with the county since it incorporated in 1985. The reimbursable cost for law enforcement services for the 2018-19 fiscal year is $2,137,812, a 29-percent increase over last year.
The county will subsidize Solvang by $370,365 this fiscal year.
“If we continue to subsidize the service, then we are taking it from somebody in my district’s mouth and giving it to somebody else, and I am opposed to that,” Adam said.
Supervisor Das Williams urged Adams to take the long view.
“I think you have a hard time winning,” Williams told Adam. “You are winning, man. We’re gonna get there.”
Adam responded back: “I wish you wouldn’t help me define winning because I can do that for myself. I will probably not consider it winning if we don’t have it full speed next year.”
Supervisor Janet Wolf agreed that “we are moving in the right direction.”
The county began renegotiating the contracts with the cities in 2016.
Undersheriff Bernard Melekian said phasing in the cost increases is “equitable.”
“We certainly anticipate Solvang and Buellton will be paying a full cost recovery over the next two years,” Melekian said.
Goleta and Carpinteria are budgeted to pay their full law enforcement amounts this fiscal year.
Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.