Sheriff’s department forgot to include sales tax in initial request

An additional $900,000 was requested from the Riverside County Board of Supervisors by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department (RCSD) at the Aug. 6 supervisors meeting for the purchase of an Airbus H145. The board had previously approved the $11.5 million purchase at its June 25 meeting.
However, the actual cost will be more, which is the reason it had to be approved a second time. After Supervisor Kevin Jeffries (1st district) questioned why the purchase was back before the board, Will Taylor, director of administration for the RCSD, replied that the $900,000 sales tax had not been included in the original request.
While Jeffries agreed that the purchase was necessary and would benefit the county, he expressed “buyer’s remorse over how we agreed to the purchase.” His preference was to pay cash for the helicopter rather than finance it.
Jeffries argued that the 10-year financing would increase its cost, which was not best for county taxpayers. In June, Sheriff Chad Bianco recommended a direct purchase from his budget, which had unexpended funding.
Jeffries noted that since the original approval of the helicopter purchase, county officials have found that property tax revenue for past fiscal years was about $4 million greater than estimated. George Johnson, a county executive, argued that the county would be better served protecting its cash because of several labor negotiations which may culminate in the next year or two.
Third District Supervisor Chuck Washington expressed disappointment that the RCSD did not have a final cost in June when it proposed the purchase.
“When I’m buying a car, I always ask what the price is to drive off the lot,” he stated.
Both Supervisor V. Manuel Perez (4th district) and Washington agreed with Johnson that preserving cash was also a priority.
As a compromise, Supervisor Karen Spiegel (2nd district) recommended adding the sales tax amount to the initial payment, so that it was not included in the amount financed.
The total cost, with interest, is estimated to be $14.5 million and was approved 3-1. Jeffries opposed and Supervisor Jeff Hewitt (5th district) was absent.
Bianco stated that the current fleet of helicopters can only carry two people — the pilot and co-pilot. The new helicopter is larger and can carry eight, including the pilots. The Airbus H145 is not only able to transport a larger crew, it can maneuver at night.
In his explanation for the proposed purchase in June, Bianco told the board, “Our helicopters are in hangars in Hemet, but they can’t take off because of overcast skies. The new helicopter will be able to fly at night and at higher altitudes.”