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Policing costs on the rise

City council's hands tied over projected budget increases.
Coun. Kevin Flynn

It’s responsible for fully one-quarter of this year’s municipal tax increase and there’s nothing the city can do about it.

Policing costs will increase by about $6,400 per member in the 2017/18 policing budget for a per-member cost to $159,321.60.

Budget projections indicate that by 2021, the cost per member will be $184,969.70.

“The frustrating thing about it is we can do nothing about it,” says Coun. Kevin Flynn. “For the first time ever, we are at 19 officers; that’s good, but if we keep seeing increases like this, I think we need to look at whether we can afford 19. Maybe have to look at 18.”

Flynn was referring to a memorandum to council from chief financial officer Monica Dalziel, seeking approval in principle for the 2017/18 budget of $3,560,639 under the Municipal Policing Contract, of which the city is responsible for 90 per cent of the costs.

Dalziel advised that if the letter is not signed and returned to the federal Treasury Board by mid-June, services could be reduced to our community due to a shortfall in funding from the federal to provincial level.

She pointed out the increase is largely attributed to increases in training, fuel, wages  and administration costs.

“The forecasted costs for 2017 equate to a .76 increase in taxes, which is up from the forecast submitted and presented to council in 2015 (.56 per cent),” wrote Dalziel in her memo. “All future years reflect approximately a one-half per cent tax increase in each year, which is slightly higher than previous forecasts.”

“It’s quite frustrating that we’re told one thing and when we get it, it’s not the same thing,” said Flynn at the May 24 council meeting, balking at a suggestion the issue be taken to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM), something he said has already been done more than once.

“My frustration is not that costs would go up but that Peter Fassbender said he would let us know well in advance,” said Coun. Alan Harrison of B.C.’s minister for Community, Sport and Cultural Development. “It’s the unpredictability of the costs.”

Coun. Tim Lavery said he sees the allocation of funds for both policing and BC Transit services as a dumping of responsibility onto the municipality.

“As we try to manage this, we have very little control on the downloaded problem,” he said. “A few weeks ago, we were asked if we have a spending problem, well I think we have a downloaded problem.”

Coun. Louise Wallace Richmond  cautioned councillors about considering a reduction in the number of police officers.

“I would just remind my colleagues that when Staff Sgt. Scott West was here a few weeks ago, he said there was a marked increase in mental health issues…” she said of the many hours local officers are having to devote to the matter. “I would caution that we don’t jump to conclusions, but include police and other community partners to find solutions.”

Sitting in on the council meeting, North Okanagan-Shuswap MP Mel Arnold was asked to take council’s concerns to Ottawa.

Although frustrated with their inability to do more than complain, councillors voted unanimously to agree to the letter of approval in principle.