By Shawn Raymundo

The city’s cost of contracting police services from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department climbed by nearly 13.5% within the first three years of a five-year agreement, a recent study shows.

San Juan Capistrano and a dozen other OC cities, including Dana Point and San Clemente, contract police services with OCSD and are currently under a five-year service contract with the department. Back in 2017, the cities jointly agreed to contract Matrix Consulting Group to conduct a study of the service agreements.

The report released this past March, notes that OCSD’s costs for services have increased across all 13 cities, which have experienced an average increase of about 6% annually since Fiscal Year 2016—the start of the five-year contract.

“The primary cause for the contract cost increase is salary and wage increases resulting from contract negotiations between the County of Orange Board of Supervisors and the OCSD labor unions,” the city said in a statement based on the report.

By the end of the current fiscal year, which ends June 31, the city of San Juan Capistrano is estimating OCSD’s bill to be about $10.31 million, up 6% from what the city spent in Fiscal Year 2018 and about 20% more than the $8.57 million service cost for Fiscal 2016.

When asked whether the city is concerned about the increase in service costs, City Manager Ben Siegel acknowledged that the cost of services does “consume a good portion” of the city’s budget, but the report shows OCSD’s services are “incredibly cost-effective” compared to those cities that have their own departments.

Broken down on a per capita basis, the report notes that the average cost per person in the 13 cities OCSD contracts with was about $215. For the Fiscal 2018 budget, the city initially earmarked $10.21 million for public safety expenses, meaning the cost per San Juan resident was $283.15.

Compared to the rest of the county, the average cost per resident in non-contracted cities was about $395, according to the study.

For fiscal years 2019 and 2020, the city has nearly $11.05 million and more than $11.57 million allocated for public safety costs, respectively. Fiscal 2020 is the final year of the contract.

Siegel also said the study shows that there are potential savings when it comes to OCSD’s transportation costs and has opened a dialogue with the OCSD to find opportunities to reduce costs and lower the annual budget.

According to the city’s staff report on the study, OCSD Sheriff Donald Barnes is “amenable to reviewing the information and further exploring any potential savings in these areas.”

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