County finds one small way to make more money: raise fees for removing and storing dead people

The Contra Costa Board of Supervisors this week approved a way for the severely cash-strapped Sheriff’s Deparment to bring in an additional $90,000. The Sheriff’s Department, which also runs the Coroner’s Department, has been granted the authority to charge more than twice as much for removing and storing dead bodies.

Under state law, county coroners can charge for removing and storing a dead body. This fee “is not assessed for persons who are indigent, or when the decedent is 14 years of age or younger or was the victim of a crime.”

Captain Jon Cox, the chief deputy of the Coroner’s Office, told the supervisors at their Tuesday meeting that Contra Costa has only charged $100 per body removal for quite a while. He was requesting that supervisors allow the Coroner’s Office to raise that fee to $267.

In a report to the supervisors, the Coroner’s Office said it handled the removal of 668 bodies in the previous fiscal year. I haven’t asked yet, but I’m assuming that the Coroner’s Office is, in some cases, referring to those cases of someone who suddenly dies at home or some place else, in which the coroners need to come, remove the body, and hold it until it can be transported to a funeral home for services.

In 543 of those 668 cases, fees were assessed. The Coroner’s Office bases its need for revenue increase on their estimate that it takes a coroner’s deputy an average of three hours to pick up and remove a body—and the hourly rate for a deputy is around $89.

There was no public debate at the supervisors meeting about this request (which you can watch here), and Supervisor Mary N. Piepho praised the Sheriff’s Department for coming up with a way to “recapture the costs of services” the county provides.

Of course, $90,000 is probably the proverbial drop in the bucket, considering that the Sheriff’s Department had to slash its budget and lay off 56 deputies.

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