February 2012 home page

Costly Cops
City to explore options for public safety

Jim Benedict | Christy Lane


The City Council, at the January 9th meeting, approved the implementation of the process to enter into discussions with other local cities to explore options to our current sheriff’s contract. The city currently contracts with San Diego County for sheriff services. Eight other cities also contract with the county including Encinitas and Solana Beach. Our current 5-year contract expires on 6/30/12 and can be cancelled with 12 months notice.

Why the concern? Level of service does not seem to be a major concern, although this is very difficult to quantify. The bigger issue is the explosion of the costs of the sheriff’s contract. The costs will outstrip projected City revenues. As with most cities the major concern is the abnormal growth of pensions. The sheriff’s contract may contain the most extreme growth of pension costs in the county.

Below are examples of the growth of Del Mar’s sheriff’s contract:

2001 2006 2011


$1,229,000*   $1,730,000*

* figures in chart from city budget records

Salaries grew at a moderate pace but overtime and pension growth jumped very dramatically. Current and future contracts with similar scenarios could strip the city of any budget dedication to other needed city services.

Over the coming months city council members will be meeting with other local communities to see if there is any synergism to identify a better solution to this growing financial burden. Possible solutions include 1) forming a new public safety district with neighboring cities, 2) joining another city’s public safety contract.
Here are some rough cost comparisons in thinking about the potential viability of combining forces with Solana Beach and Encinitas. All three cities now spend about $16 million for law enforcement for a total population of about 76,000. Some cities with their own police departments include Napa spending $12m for a population of 76,000; Lake Forest $13m for 77,000; Hemet $13m for 78,000. Interestingly, Redondo Beach’s population of 63,000 spends $31m on their police department. Our neighbor, Carlsbad’s populaton of 105,000 budgets $28 million for their police department.
I would be remiss to not recognize the City Council for unanimously moving forward to find a long term solution to public safety that is financially sound.




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