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Sheriff's Department patrol funding back

County official: Deputy numbers in unincorporated areas to be back to normal next fiscal year

Posted: April 16, 2013 6:30 p.m.
Updated: April 16, 2013 6:30 p.m.

Sheriff’s Department patrols in unincorporated areas are expected to be fully funded under the county’s recently proposed budget for 2013-14 fiscal year, a county official said Tuesday.

Members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted in March to allot $22 million to restore patrol services in the county’s unincorporated areas that had been cut due to Sheriff’s Department budget constraints.

The preliminary 2013-14 Los Angeles County budget, released Monday, includes money to ensure those patrols are not cut again, said Tony Bell, a spokesman for Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich.

“Moving forward, the board has established a separate budget unit for unincorporated patrol and has provided full funding for it so there will be no cuts to patrol in the coming fiscal year,” Bell wrote in an email Tuesday.

Unincorporated areas in the Santa Clarita Valley patrolled by sheriff’s deputies include Acton, Agua Dulce, Castaic, Stevenson Ranch, Val Verde, West Ranch and parts of Canyon Country and Saugus.

The issue of unincorporated-area patrols came to light earlier this year when Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca ordered the Sheriff’s Department to reduce the amount of overtime being paid to deputies.

Baca said he had used overtime to provide patrols in unincorporated areas.

Even before patrol levels were reduced, a county audit released in late January showed deputies took longer, on average, to respond to calls from unincorporated areas than those in cities that contract services through the Sheriff’s Department.

Deputies took an average of about one minute longer to respond to emergency calls in unincorporated areas compared to contract cities during the 2011-2012 fiscal year, according to the audit.

Deputies also took longer, on average, to respond to priority and routine calls in unincorporated areas, according to the audit.

Though the preliminary budget for the next fiscal year appears to be balanced and free of shortfall, Antonovich said potential costs imposed by the state or federal government could be a “fiscal iceberg” for the county.

Costs related to state realignment, which puts formerly imprisoned non-serious, non-sexual or non-violent inmates into county custody, could become a fiscal concern depending on how the state funds the program in the future, county Chief Executive Officer William T. Fujioka said.

The county does expect to see some money set aside to fund the costs of realignment when Gov. Jerry Brown releases his revised budget proposal in May, Fujioka said at Tuesday’s meeting of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

Antonovich, as he has in the past, said he believes the state should assume the full cost of realignment.

More than 11,600 inmates have been sent to county jail instead of prison since the beginning of realignment in October 2011, according to Antonovich. More than 14,700 parolees have likewise been assigned to county instead of state supervision.

Antonovich cited other potential costs, such as the state’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” and county costs to fund storm water cleanup efforts as part of a “fiscal iceberg of looming costs” for the county budget.

“Although this is the first year the county has pulled out of the red and into the black, we’re still not out of the woods yet,” Antonovich said Tuesday.

The county will hold a public hearing on its budget proposal on May 15. The next fiscal year starts July 1.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney



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