SANTA MARIA, Calif. - There's new information about the new jail for north Santa Barbara County. The county will need to pay more than $9 million to build the new 376-bed jail on Black Road and Betteravia in Santa Maria.
But the county will also need to shoulder the burden of its yearly operating costs. So can they afford it?
Those yearly operating costs of $17 million a year on the county are significant. And making sure the money is available could require some cuts in spending.
Santa Barbara County got a great first step on the new jail project thanks to $80 million dollars in state money for construction. Now the county needs to come up with the other $9.7 million just to complete construction of the jail that will sit on this plot of land in the northern part of the county. Doesn't sound too bad? That's just to build the place.
It will take $17 million dollars a year to operate the jail for things like new deputies and housing the inmates. And all that falls completely on taxpayers.
Last July, Santa Barbara Sheriff Bill Brown told Central Coast News the operational costs of the jail could be hard to come by.
"A lot of it is going to be predicated on future growth in the county and general fund," said Brown.
If that growth happens and the general fund has more revenue coming in, Brown said a portion of it would have to be dedicated to the jail. 4th District Supervisor Peter Adam said if that general fund money doesn't grow, the county is willing to dip into the reserves, which currently has about $30 million.
"It pains me but this project I believe it's so important that it does rise to the level that we need to take it out of the strategic reserve," says Adam.
Adam said a reduction in certain county services would be necessary to accommodate the jail. As far as what services, he couldn't say just yet.
"We're trying to find a way to make a situation that's workable at a price that the taxpayers can swallow," says Adam.
The schedule that the state has for this project shows that a schematic design is due by November of this year. That's the next step in this process.
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