Rural operations strain SLO County Sheriff’s Office budget

Efforts to increase crime prevention in remote parts of the county are pushing the Sheriff’s Office budget higher than expected.

Higher costs for fuel and more time spent patrolling rural roads, as well as unanticipated repairs to vehicles, could knock the anticipated budget out of whack by as much as $300,000 over the course of the year, according to a report discussed by county supervisors Tuesday.

From July 1 to Sept. 30, calls for service in rural areas went from 3,917 in 2010 to 5,673 this year, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Overtime and temporary employee costs also could come in higher than expected for the year, by $292,000 and $27,000, respectively.

The July 1-Sept. 30 quarterly report includes projections for the full year based on the three-month numbers.

Supervisors receive four of these reports per fiscal year, which runs from July 1 through June 30. Their incremental nature allows department heads to make adjustments with an eye toward making sure that the year-end figures do not leave a department in the red.

The Sheriff’s Office was one of three in the county whose revenue projections were not on track. The others were Planning and Building and Reprographics.

Supervisors were not concerned by the numbers. They said Sheriff Ian Parkinson and his predecessor, Pat Hedges, both had pledged to have an increased presence in rural areas.

“It’s where we want them,” said Adam Hill.

The Planning and Building Department could be down $303,500 by year’s end, the report notes, largely because there is less construction and therefore less revenue from fees. Waiving fees for some projects also has reduced department income.Like the Sheriff’s Office, the Department of Planning and Building is devising and will continue to devise ways to offset the losses, including leaving vacant positions unfilled.

Other highlights from the quarterly report:

As the use of emails increases, fewer people are using reprographics (traditional copying techniques), so much so that there is not only a decline in income, but the county might look to phase out the program.

County Fire will not receive $10,000 it was expecting for four out-of-service vehicles that it had declared surplus and sold to an auction house. The auctioneers went out of business before they paid, and neither they nor the vehicles can be found.

Supervisors approved a transfer of $35,000 to the County Counsel’s Office for the cost of hiring outside counsel to work on Los Osos bankruptcy litigation. County Counsel Warren Jensen said the case required specialized knowledge.