If the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors has played its cards right, local public safety programs could soon see a grant of over $1 million from the Chumash Casino.
The supervisors suggested several public works projects in Santa Barbara County that would benefit from funding through the Indian Gaming Community Benefit Grant at the board’s May 3 meeting. Under the terms of the agreement that allows the Chumash Indians to operate gambling facilities in the area, the casino’s owners are obligated to set aside $1,302,070 in the last fiscal year for community improvement projects. The supervisors unanimously recommended that funding primarily be distributed to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept., Fire Dept. and District Attorney’s Office.
The board’s recommendations will now go before the Indian Gaming Community Benefit Committee, which has the final say as to how the money will be spent. Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone said the committee will decide how it wants to distribute the grant funding during its meeting May 26.
County Administrative Analyst Lori Norton said the board’s recommendation reflects a new emphasis on safety and law enforcement.
“The board has identified public safety as a priority of this year’s funding,” Norton said. “Last year there was funding for road improvements, but this year we looked at the priorities of the county and other public safety issues.”
Norton said this is the second year that the county has made recommendations for the allocation of funds from the Chumash grant. She said funding for the District Attorney’s Office would help offset the costs of defending or prosecuting individuals who commit crimes related to Indian gaming.
The Chumash agreed to fund both the Sheriff’s Dept. and Fire Dept. last year, Norton said, but she said she is not sure how the grant committee will respond to the recommendation that some of the money go to the District Attorney’s Office.
“The tribe will decide which of them they want to sponsor,” Norton said. “The third request, I don’t know how their response is going to be.”
Firestone said the supervisors anticipate that the Chumash will accept all three of the suggestions, but he said the decision regarding which organizations to fund ultimately falls on the grant committee.
“[The recommendations were] passed unanimously,” Firestone said. “It wasn’t decided on the money, but effectively it’s a done deal.”