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Need Fingerprints? That'll Cost You More Than Before

San Mateo County Board of Supervisors approves more than doubling the cost of processing fingerprints through the Sheriff's Office.

Need Fingerprints? That'll Cost You More Than Before

Employers who hire the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office to process fingerprints of new job applicants will soon be forced to pay more than double what they have in the past.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously 4-0, with Supervisor Adrienne Tissier absent, to hike the cost of fingerprinting from $18 to $39 at Tuesday morning's meeting in Redwood City. The new rate will go into effect Oct. 1, according to the report.

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 saying it is necessary to become competitive with surrounding jurisdictions.

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

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 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 caregiver for a senior or disabled person, or a teacher who interacts with children.

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

The Sheriff's Office contracts its fingerprinting services 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.

During the 2010-2011 fiscal year the Sheriff's Office processed 3,649 applications which generated revenue for the department. This fiscal year, the department is expecting to process 2,361 fingerprints for non-criminal purposes, according to the report.

In addition to the service offered by the Sheriff's Office, the San Mateo County Office of Education also provides fingerprinting, as does several other nearby cities, which will further reduce demand for the Sheriff's Office, according to the report.

In the end, with the rate increase, "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 report.

The approved fee hike 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.

Part of the rate hike also involves a new $5 fee the Sheriff's Office must pay per fingerprint to the California Identification System in order to process an application and have it sent to the State Department of Justice for further review.

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.

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