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By Daniel Ritz

On May 15, City Council approved the Law Enforcement Services Agreement with the County of Orange for law enforcement for 2019.

The proposed fiscal year 2018-19 Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) contract is $12,671,000, an increase of $598,000, or five percent over the 2017-2018 contract of $12,073,000. The increase is due primarily to costs for salaries, $117,000, and benefits, $261,000, annual leave cash outs, $85,000, training, $78,000, and department overhead, $69,000.

The vote passed 3-2, with Councilmembers Debra Lewis and Paul Wyatt dissenting.

“I’m not for any reduction of services in any way,” Councilmember Joe Muller said, citing rising homelessness as an example for continuing OCSD services in full.

“I’m not either, but the budget has to line up or we’re going to face some hard questions in the future,” responded Councilmember Wyatt.

The Police Services contract alone accounts for over 36.6 percent of the city’s adopted 2019 General Fund operating budget, up from 35 percent in fiscal year 2018. The OCSD contract includes 41 direct report OCSD staff dedicated to Dana Point, including 34 full-time sworn positions, five non-sworn community service officers, a crime prevention specialist and an investigative assistant, along with one part-time extra help position.

Mayor Pro Tem Joe Muller and Mayor Richard Viczorek questioned what waiting to approve the contract would have practically done.

An OCSD representative responded, saying that the only true “negotiation” would be the reduction of services.

“Costs are what they are,” OCSD said.

Councilmember Wyatt emphasized that he wanted county supervisors, who are ultimately responsible for law enforcement contracting, to understand that escalating costs are a concern in Dana Point.

“I won’t accept this false choice of pay for what I ask or reduced services,” Councilmember Lewis said during the meeting. Lewis reasoned that as the proposed contract would not begin until July 1, there was plenty of time to wait and include information from a study being conducted by more than a dozen South Orange County cities.

Currently, 13 South Orange County cities are under a comprehensive study initiated by Mission Viejo, studying the value of OCSD services. A link to the full contract can be seen here. 

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