LOS ANGELES - UPDATE 5/12: The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has unanimously voted to direct Sheriff Alex Villanueva to immediately cease his plans to close the Altadena and Marina del Rey stations.
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and the board called for "A more transparent, collaborative" process of addressing the sheriff's budget deficit, with Supervisor Janice Hahn calling closing stations "An absolute last resort."
The Los Angeles County Sheriff has decided to close down two Sheriff’s substations after the Board of Supervisors rebuked him for what they say is out of control spending, and a ballooning deficit by the department made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.
But the Sheriff is pushing back, claiming the Board has underfunded his department by $400 million.“Our operating cost is $3.9 billion to sustain the way it is, they’re giving me $3.5 billion and telling me good luck with the other $400 million,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in an interview with FOX 11.
“So we’re gonna have to scramble to find a way to reduce that cost, it’s not gonna be pretty, people are going to be harmed because of this.”One of the decisions the Sheriff has made is to close down the Altadena station, and the Marina Del Rey station, which will save an estimated $12.2 million.
The Altadena station will be merged with the Cresencia Valley station, while the Marina Del Rey station will be merged with the South LA station.“So we save on the overhead with two administrative staffs, but we keep the deputies in place so we’re not going to harm the public immediately,” Villanueva said.
“Unfortunately, over a long period of time, it’s going to be a slower response time for complaints, administrative investigations, that sort of thing.”The Board of Supervisors wants the Sheriff to begin cost-cutting by scaling back recruitment and hiring, but the Sheriff says that’s not feasible.“If we go down from 12 classes a year to 4 classes a year, that means we’re gonna lose 160 sworn positions per year, and right now we’re understaffed by 712 positions,” Villanueva said.
“All while this is happening, our entire baby-boom generation of people in the department are leaving en mass because they’re aging out, they have to be replaced.
”The Board accuses the Sheriff of having inflated and unnecessary overtime costs, but the Sheriff contends most of that came from four highly unexpected events.
The Tick Fire, the Saugus High School shooting, the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash, and the current coronavirus pandemic.
The Sheriff also feels as if he’s being punished for the actions of his predecessors.“Right now, my budget does not account for all the bad decisions from previous administrations, things that happened, 3, 4, 5 years ago and the settlements are coming to fruition today,” he said. “Last year it was $61 million, the current fiscal year is $39 million.”But the Board says it’s Villanueva’s responsibility to get the budget under control.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger provided FOX 11 with the following statement:
“Since last year, the Sheriff’s Department has run a substantial deficit that the County is unable to maintain. The Chief Executive Officer has provided the Sheriff’s Department with guidance and suggestions for appropriate budget cuts that would not impact public safety or community service, such as limited overtime and scaling back academy classes. I am disappointed that instead of more sensible adjustments, he is responding by eliminating Sheriff’s stations, including in Altadena, an unincorporated area that I represent.”
“If we make the changes they want, it will kill this organization,” Villanueva said.
CNS contributed to this report.