Although they pay for their sheriff's deputy patrols by the minute, Malibu and four West Valley cities served by the Lost Hills/Malibu sheriff's station could get less law enforcement service next fiscal year if proposed cuts in the Los Angeles County budget are approved.
About two-thirds of the $12-million budget at the station comes from contracts with Malibu, Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Hidden Hills and Westlake Village. The rest is made up by the county, which reportedly might cut 16% of the sheriff's budget next year.
"If those cuts go through, it's going to be bad for everybody--even the incorporated cities," said Lt. Jim Pierson of the Lost Hills/Malibu station. "They will still get what they pay for in terms of the day-to-day business. But in an emergency . . . we may not have enough resources and have to wait for backups before we go in."
The nearly 70 deputies who patrol the 180-square-mile region often back each other up in case of an emergency or large event. But their ability to do so could be weakened if any of the five cities cuts its sheriff's contract.
"It's all a carefully woven situation," Pierson said. "The cities do rely on each other for coverage, so if you start chopping in one place, the whole thing can start to come undone."
Officials in Malibu, Calabasas and Agoura Hills said preliminary budgets probably will maintain the current levels of funding for their own sheriff's services with, in some cases, slight cost-of-living increases.
Malibu City Manager David Carmany said Tuesday that he plans to ask the City Council to approve a 4 1/2% increase in the sheriff's contract to cover the cost-of-living increase given to sheriff's deputies. The city now pays $3.2 million out of its approximately $7 million budget for sheriff's services.