When San Carlos decided to contract out law enforcement to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office this month, it became the first community on the Peninsula to disband a single-city police department.
But the city of 28,000 is not the only one considering different ways of putting cops on the streets as budgets are strained by rising costs and falling revenue.
San Carlos Assistant City Manager Brian Moura said he suspects his city, which is scheduled to start contracting with the Sheriff’s Office in November, won’t be the last to consider the switch.
“I think a lot of folks at this point are just doing some initial research,” Moura said. “I think the real test will come once it’s online for a while and people can look at it.”
In August, San Mateo and Burlingame agreed to commission a study of a variety of options, including sharing some services or contracting out.
San Mateo City Manager Susan Loftus said that will help officials “make an informed choice about what the pros and cons were and what would be in the best interests of the city.”
Pacifica’s city manager, at the request of the City Council, met with San Carlos officials to ask about the contracting process.
But the city’s five-year plan for closing a roughly $3 million deficit doesn’t currently include any changes to the Police Department, said Ann Ripzma, administrative services director.
Instead, Pacifica hopes to lower costs through union negotiations and raise money through revenue measures such as the hotel-tax increase on the November ballot, though Ripzma noted the plan could change.
“All we’re doing is watching everybody else,” Ripzma said, “but we’re really focused on our revenue measure for the November ballot.”
Similarly, Half Moon Bay is waiting until after the November vote on Measure K, a sales tax increase projected to raise $1.4 million per year, before considering another option, Interim City Manager Michael Dolder said.
Dolder said the city wouldn’t necessarily save money contracting with the Sheriff’s Office unless it reduced service, because county employees are paid about 20 percent more than Half Moon Bay cops.
“We’re looking in a positive way at Measure K to see what the voters say,” Dolder said. “That’s really our direction from them as to what they want to do.”
San Carlos, then and now
1925: San Carlos incorporated and Police Department formed
39: Full-time police employees, who officials say will be offered jobs with San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office
$3.5 million: Deficit for fiscal year 2010-11
$2 million: Annual amount contracting with Sheriff’s Office will save city
3 officers, 1 sergeant: Typical shift staffing level in San Carlos, which will remain the same under Sheriff’s Office