The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department has ended the last fiscal year “in the black” and balanced, after a near $40 million shortfall at the year’s start. The Sheriff argued last year in a recommended Sheriff’s budget to the Board of Supervisors for full funding. Due to the County’s stark fiscal challenges, the Board of Supervisors did not approve the Sheriff’s full funding request which forced him throughout this past year to reduce full-time staffing on the Sheriff’s payroll to meet that sharply reduced budget target. Funding provided directly to the Sheriff’s budget by the Board of Supervisors is termed Net County Cost (NCC) and represents far less than half of the department’s annual appropriations. The NCC primarily funds countywide jail operations for every community, unincorporated patrol, coroner-public administrator functions and a small percentage of the court security operations.
Meeting this reduction within the approved budget funding, required managed loss of staffing across the department through routine personnel attrition (retirements, resignations and terminations) with sharply reduced hiring to offset only a portion of those losses. This is the second consecutive year that the Sheriff’s Department managed to re-balance its budget shortfalls, but comes at a high cost in reduced staffing levels in our unincorporated areas and regional teams and task forces. This reduction in County NCC funding has impacted disproportionally our unincorporated areas as the countywide jail system is already far too small in capacity, already necessitating nearly 40,000 “early releases” of inmates since the implementation of AB 109 Realignment on October 1, 2011.
The Sheriff’s Department managed NCC funding frugally to end FY 15/16 and FY 16/17 each “in balance”, and even returning $14 million in surplus funds at the close of FY 15/16, through the drop-in numbers of employees on the payroll. The net effect has been to reduce patrol functions to minimum safety levels - in addition to sharply reduced staffing of multi-agency regional teams and task forces - for each of the patrol stations across Riverside County, sometimes each station serving hundreds, if not thousands of square miles in jurisdiction. The Sheriff’s Department has down-sized over the past two fiscal years by hundreds of full time positions as the Sheriff outlined publicly to the Board of Supervisors during the June 19th budget hearings.
The Sheriff’s Department is currently facing another $50 million shortfall for FY 17/18 on top of the previous year’s $40 million shortfall which was erased through staffing reductions down to minimum levels. The Sheriff has asked that at least $25-30 million, of the $50 million overall shortfall, be minimally added back this year to avoid any deeper staff reductions. This won’t repair the damage in staffing - especially over this past year to re-balance the department’s budget - but does stop any further reductions that would be required.
Each year, increased unfunded labor group MOU raise increases plus County-directed ISF (admin charges) continue to inflate all departmental costs, and this year the County CEO also proposed NCC cuts of 6.5% off the top - taken together are forcing the Department to sharply reduce the number of employees and collapse some of our additional operations to re-balance. The last few years have seen reduced budget targets that are impacting the safety of our deputies and other staff, as well as the communities we serve - these have not been “rollover” budgets for the department.
The Sheriff is increasingly concerned about the continued reductions in staffing on the safety of our employees, and our ability to properly safeguard the public through our patrol, jail, court, and coroner operations, with our uniformed 24/7 emergency first-responder force, as required under the law. At a minimum, in the face of the County’s fiscal challenges, further degradation in staffing levels needs to stop and not plummet any lower, and planning is needed now to find appropriate funding to repair damage to the public safety net that has already taken place. As part of that effort, the Sheriff has formally requested that the County’s funded unincorporated area sworn staffing ratio be returned from the current minimum staffing (.75 sworn/1000 population), back up to 1.0 sworn/1000 population for those nearly 400,000 residents. Even at this point, that effort would take nearly 2 years to reach, due to the long lead time in recruiting/testing/training new sworn deputies. At one point a few years back, unincorporated area patrol staffing had reached 1.2 sworn/1000 population.
To that end, the Sheriff forwarded his updated fiscal year request covering these topics in a memorandum to the County’s CFO and CEO this past week for consideration by the Board of Supervisors on July 25th for final FY 17/18 budget adoption.
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