A city that now pays Volusia County and the Sheriff’s Office for police protection will look into the idea of forming its own police department — even if it means thinking outside the box.
DeBary has had a long relationship with the Sheriff’s Office. Since DeBary officially became a city on Dec. 31, 1993, its leaders have used that agency as its police force. That may change.
Stung by the prospect of having to pay more in future years for law enforcement, the DeBary City Council has ordered a study of other alternatives and costs.
“We will look at all options,” DeBary City Manager Carmen Rosamonda said Aug. 3.
What are the options? Besides retaining the Volusia Sheriff’s Office as its police force, Rosamonda said DeBary may:
— Contract with another city to provide police protection
DeBary already pays Orange City to provide fire protection and emergency-medical services, and that close connection between the neighboring municipalities may become closer.
“That may be an option,” Rosamonda said.
— Arrange for law enforcement from another city or even another county, perhaps Sanford or Seminole County
Rosamonda said the city will seek legal advice on whether a law-enforcement agency in another county may cross county lines to provide services to a town in Volusia County
— Organize its own police department, similar to those of cities such as DeLand
The City Council unanimously agreed to Rosamonda’s proposal to seek out a consultant to do an in-depth study of ways the city may obtain law enforcement at a lower cost. DeBary’s proposed 2022-23 budget includes $3.73 million for the Sheriff’s Office to patrol the streets and neighborhoods and deter crime against people and property. The cost of those services from the county agency will increase to approximately $4.4 million for the next fiscal year, 2023-24, according to information provided by the county to city officials.
“We are concerned,” Rosamonda said.
Rosamonda noted DeBary’s property owners, along with those throughout the county, already pay for much of the Sheriff’s Office’s personnel and other overhead costs in the county-levied property taxes.
The proposed increases in the amounts to be charged to DeBary for police services follow from a study commissioned by the county government. The consultant, Canopy Management Consulting Group, of Tallahassee, recommended the county and the Sheriff’s Office charge more for policing and thus spread more of the agency’s costs — including operating expenses such as fuel, vehicles and maintenance, personnel, training, information technology, and insurance of various types — to those entities that rely on its deputies. Four Volusia County cities — DeBary, Deltona, Oak Hill and Pierson — now contract with the Sheriff’s Office to be their police force.
Deltona, incidentally, is set to pay about $12.4 million to the VSO for the 2022-23 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, but the biggest city in the county may face an increase of approximately $3 million for the 2023-24 fiscal year.
County Manager George Recktenwald defended the proposed future increases for contract services.
“Things have gone up,” he said. “Wages have gone up. Fuel. Every one of the providers has to look at how they allocate overhead. … Everybody else is struggling with these costs.”
Whatever DeBary does about meeting its law-enforcement needs, Mayor Karen Chasez said, the city and the peace officers it hires will not lower the standards of public protection.
“We are not looking for any lesser level of services,” she added.
Rosamonda said he will search for a consultant to make a full study of the possible policing. Prospective consultants will submit their own bids for the scope of work, and DeBary officials will narrow down the ones they deem most likely to give a thorough and salient report on the choices for the city.
“This is a three- or four-year process,” Rosamonda concluded.