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Need Fingerprints? That'll Cost You More Than Ever Before

Board of Supervisors approved more than doubling the cost of getting fingerprints from the Sheriff's Office.

Employers hiring the San Mateo County to process fingerprints of new job applicants will be forced to pay more than double what they had in the past, under today's decision by the County Board of Supervisors.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously 4-0, with Supervisor Adrienne Tissier absent, to hike the cost of fingerprinting from its current $18 fee up to $39 at Tuesday morning's meeting in Redwood City.

This is the first time in eight years the rate has been increased, said Allena Portis, Deputy Director of Administration and Finance for the Sheriff's Office.

Portis justified the increased rate by claiming it is necessary to become competitive with surrounding jurisdictions.

According to Portis, the fee is near the median cost of local agencies that offer the same service. The highest local fee to process fingerprints was the $54 in the Atherton Police Department, and the lowest was $13 with the San Bruno Police Department.

The Sheriff's Office processes about 3,500 fingerprints annually, as part of the job application process for more than 100 companies, according to a county report.

Fingerprinting has become an increasingly necessary step in the job application process, and is now a requirement to become a care giver for a senior and disabled person or teacher to a child.

Increased security clearances after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, made fingerprinting an even more popular safety precaution.

The Sheriff's Office contracts its fingerprinting service to government, private and non-profit employers wishing to check the criminal history of job applicants.

The Sheriff's Office may stand to generate revenue under the approved rate increase, but it is expected to only cover its cost of processing due to a reduced demand for job application fingerprints, caused by the downturn in the economy, according to the report.

Last fiscal year the Sheriff's Office processed 3,649 applications which generated revenue for the department. This fiscal year, the office is only expecting to process 2,361 fingerprints for non-criminal purposes, according to the report.

The also provides fingerprinting services along with a variety of other local cities, which will go to reduce demand for the Sheriff's Office, according to the report.

"The department's revenue will remain the same," said Portis.

In order to arrive at the $39 fee, the Sheriff's Office worked with a management research and consulting firm which audited its fingerprinting process then recommended what it believed was an appropriate cost in order to cover the price of operations, according to the reporte.
 
As well, the Sheriff's Office is facing a new $5 fee per fingerprint from the California Identification System in order to process an application, and have it sent to the State Department of Justice for further review.

The $39 fee approved by the board will only cover the fingerprinting cost to the Sheriff's Office. There is a separate fee charged by the Department of Justice for reviewing the criminal history of the fingerprints, according to the report.

The $5 fee will also be used by the California Identification System to maintain and pay partial cost of the replacement of the fingerprinting equipment in the Sheriff's Office.

The additional $5 fee was added into the recommended fee increase approved by the board.

A review board, which includes Supervisor Tissier, overseeing costs and expenses related to fingerprinting, signed off on the proposed fee increase before it was brought before the Board of Supervisors.

The new fee increase will go into effect on October 1, according to the report.

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