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Ventura County

Vehicle Fee OKd for Fingerprinting Costs

Supervisors agree to collect revenue rather than take $570,000 a year from the general fund.

October 23, 2002|Catherine Saillant | Times Staff Writer

Ventura County supervisors Tuesday approved a $1-per-vehicle fee to pay for updated fingerprinting technology at police departments across the county.

Supervisors rejected the proposal two weeks ago because it had been presented as a routine, automatically approved item, and they wanted details on how the $570,000 a year would be spent. The funds will be put into a trust fund.

Supervisor Frank Schillo, the dissenter in the 4-1 vote, said people who get fingerprints should pay the full cost of the services.

"I really can't see taxing everyone for that," he said.

But the majority said that if they didn't approve the levy, which will be tacked onto motorists' annual vehicle license fee, the county would have to dip into general funds to cover the cost of buying and maintaining the equipment.

The state Department of Justice has mandated that local governments begin collecting fingerprints electronically, using scanning equipment, instead of inked prints on paper. Under state law, the $1 fee will end in five years.

Supervisor Judy Mikels praised the legislation and said the county should not waste the opportunity to collect the revenue.

"If we don't institute this, we're going to end up paying for [upgraded equipment] anyway," the Simi Valley supervisor said.

The Sheriff's Department will buy upgraded machines that capture images of palms as well as fingers, Chief Deputy Dante Honorico told board members. Machines will be added to police agencies in Camarillo, Santa Paula, Ojai and Fillmore, and larger departments will install a second scanner, he said.

Numerous education, child care, business and social service organizations require fingerprinting of employees. The additional machines will make the process faster and more efficient, Honorico said.

Ninety percent of fingerprints are of criminal suspects. The rest, about 16,000 each year, are done for employment-related purposes.

Although it costs at least $75 for each set of prints, the county by law can charge only $10, he said. The trust funds will be tapped to make up the difference, Honorico said.

About two-thirds of the state's 58 counties have adopted similar fee increases, he said.

"We believe this is the most equitable way to finance this important public safety program," the chief deputy said.

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