More than eight years since the city of Half Moon Bay voted to dissolve its police department for a contract with the county’s law enforcement services, data shows the city continues to save money as a result. That doesn’t mean policing is getting any less expensive.

At a recent Half Moon Bay City Council meeting, the contract with the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office was renewed for an additional three years. For fiscal year 2019-2020, the city will spend $3.47 million. That is a $326,000 increase from the previous fiscal year. 

City Manager Bob Nisbet explained there are two components to the increase. 

“There is an increase in salaries, items and materials, and there is also an amount needed to come up to speed and correct, for lack of a better term, a service gap,” he said.

In 2011, gripped with starting a fiscal year with a $500,000 deficit and a police department struggling to maintain its services, the city opted to contract with the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office. 

“There was an estimate at that time how often the deputies serving the unincorporated areas would be called to services in the city and vice versa,” Nisbet said. “We got a pretty a good deal out it and it often goes the other way quite often.” 

Nisbet explained this is why the renewal of the contract contains a $150,000 increase, which is targeted at making up for the fact deputies serving the unincorporated areas respond to calls in Half Moon Bay. 

“There is obviously a symbiotic relationship between the service they provide to Half Moon Bay and the service they provide to the unincorporated part of the county,” Nisbet said.

 “We track to what extent our deputies have to go on calls outside and to what extent do deputies on the outside have to go into the city. And so this is an attempt to fix that.” 

Back when the city had its own police force, it cost about $3.6 million annually, accounting for about two-fifths of the city’s budget. 

When the city first signed the contract with the Sheriff’s Office in 2011 the cost for services was $2.28 million. Since then, each year the contract reflects an increase in services to account mostly for cost of living expenses, but the charge has continued to be lower than what the city once paid for public safety. 

The average response time to emergency calls by Sheriff’s deputies is 3 minutes and 23 seconds, as reported by the Sheriff’s Office for the last fiscal year. This is 37 seconds quicker than what is considered acceptable under the sheriff’s agreement with the city. 

Nisbet, who started his role as city manager about 10 months ago, said he is pleased with the work of the Sheriff’s Office and hopes to continue the relationship. 

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