LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is on track to spend more than twice what it budgeted on overtime for the fiscal year set to end June 30, according to a report provided to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday.
Excess overtime pay has been a problem for the department for years, long before Sheriff Alex Villanueva was elected in 2018. The board asked for a semi-annual report on the department’s financial status, including overtime, in June 2017, when overtime costs were about 80% over budget. That trend continued in the year ending on June 2018, with overtime at more than twice what was budgeted.
The report by Chief Executive Officer Sachi Hamai said the department expects to spend more than $289 million in overtime against an overtime budget of $140 million this year.
The department said the excess overtime is due to “hiring delays, vacancies, contract obligations and the need to meet mandated requirements associated with court settlements and agreements,” according to Hamai’s report.
A new coding system for overtime is expected to help the department better analyze and bring costs under control. Hiring new deputies is another way to bring overtime down. The department — which has more than 17,000 employees and has struggled to recruit new deputies in a tight job market — hopes to hire roughly 1,400 new sworn and civilian staff next year.
Villanueva has told the board that morale has improved under his leadership, making it easier to recruit new employees.
The CEO and the department have been working for months to try and right-size the sheriff’s budget, even as Villanueva and the board are embroiled in a heated legal dispute about reinstating deputies terminated for misconduct.
The budget totals $3.4 billion, about half of which is funded by the county. That funding is one of the few points of leverage the board has over the elected sheriff.
In discussions with the CEO, Villanueva and his department have identified a handful of other financial challenges in addition to recruitment, including:
— $28 million in one-time and ongoing funding for body-worn cameras;
— more staffing to handle requests for information related to Senate Bill 1421 — which allows for public access to information on police shootings and other uses of force; and
— 45 more custody assistants to staff station jails.
The department also indicated that the budget underfunds the replacement of aging vehicles, buses and helicopters and that the state doesn’t pay enough for security services provided to trial courts.