The Sheriff’s in Town

July 9, 2009

Our Town’s costs for police services are set to rapidly increase under the contract just approved by the Town COWncil. During the Consent Calendar of the June 23rd meeting, the Town has again contracted with the San Mateo COWnty Sheriff’s Office to provide police protection to the Town through 2012.

The Sheriff’s first proposal to Woodside was a massive increase of 22-23%, prompting COWncil member Hodges to say at an earlier budget meeting, “He’s not shy, is he!?” After some “pushback” from the Town, the Sheriff’s Office agreed to ‘just’ a 19% increase in the first year, with a 3% increase in the second year and the third year. The Town and the Sheriff’s Office agreed to format these increases as 8.1% a year in order to “soften” (Susan George, writing in the Town Budget for 2009-2011) the impact of the cost increase.

One reason the costs have risen so dramatically is due to the deputy sheriffs and management personnel having had salary negotiations since the last time Woodside locked in a contract with the COWnty back in the spring of 2006. So, even though budgets and belts are tightening all over the state and the country, Woodside is now being hit by those increases. Town Manager Susan George pointed out that we are catching up to 2 years of negotiated salary increases. As it was said at the meeting, “it’s still a better deal than no police department.”

While that’s true, it is the COWncil’s obligation to make sure we contract for the services we need and only pay for those services. The Town COWncil and even Susan George expressed some concerns over that at the previous budget meeting. Susan reported that, “some concerns I had over the sheriff’s department have been addressed,” but she did not explain what those concerns were and how they had been addressed. The COWncil members were more direct, questioning whether we are getting all the availability we pay for. The motorcycle officer received high praise from COWncil members citing his popularity with neighborhoods since he hands out a lot of tickets to speeders and other scofflaws. Of course, the Town gets a share of the fines collected.

Luckily, the COPS program (Citizens’ Option for Public Safety – a state program that provides $100,000 a year to support Woodside’s police protection services) is not yet under the threat of being cut by Sacramento. This fund helps to pay the police service costs. After subtracting the COPS money, the cost to the taxpayers in 2009-10 will be $1,098,368, rising to $1,195,437 in ’10-’11 and to $1,300,768 in 2011-2012.

We love our Sheriff’s department and think they do a great job. If this is the cost of police protection, we will happily pay it. We are not sure that the Sheriff’s willingness to reduce the amount he requested means less service? We are not sure that we are contracting for all of the services we want and need. We certainly hope that our Town COWncil is ensuring that we get all the attention and time we pay for from the Sheriff’s Department.

Follow-up: Perhaps you have noticed an increase in our Sheriff’s deputies in Town recently? Well we have and are happy to report it should continue!

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