Municipality tackles Police Servicing Cost

Jennifer Thurbide

Municipal leaders continue to lobby provincial officials on the cost of local policing as taxpayers prepare to spend almost $300,000 more than 2010 on the municipal service when the final bill is submitted this December.

While walking through regional and local breakdowns last week Mayor Phil Vinet said numerous requests to meet with key provincial ministers, including Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, to discuss the skyrocketing service costs have been ignored.

“This is our biggest target when it comes to budget items,” said Mayor Vinet. “We have to get some kind of provincial relief fund and we aren’t going to let up until we get it.”

[box title=”Costing Summary for Municipal Policing” color=”#073F68″ width=”65%” margin-left=”15px” float=”right”]Currently the Municipality pays for:
0.48 FTE Detachment Commander at $57,096 per year
1.92 FTE Sergeant totalling $188.339
13.11FTE Constables totalling $1,143,716

Contractual payment, shift premium, benefits totals $391,410

0.96 FTE administrative clerk at $53,221
Communications operator at $74,200
Prisoner guards at $18,596
Civilian members total: 146,018 + benefits 18,596

Other direct operating expenses shared by all provincial municipalities:
Communications Centre: $3,412
Operational support: $22,474
RHQ municipal support:$25,700
Vehicle usage: $150,556
Telephone: $20,907
Uniform and equipment: $18,643
Office automation (total): $40,119[/box]At the centre of the issue is the base formula at use by the province to determine the number of officers a community needs to provide service under municipal contract. According to the OPP’s Contract Policing Section, the formula analyzes workload over a four year span and compares local occurrences and incidents with provincial averages to determine the number of staff required in each community.

However, contracts are set up every five years and costs for this pre-determined number of officers is increasing year by year, regardless of whether the number of incidents decreases. According to documents obtained from the Municipality, in 2007 the local government was billed over $1.9 million for municipal enforcement. In 2011 the municipal coffers will be hit with a $2.3 million invoice, an increase of over $400,000 in four years. Of this total, $2 million is earmarked for salaries and benefits for the 15.51 uniform and 1.44 civilian staff determined by the province.

Chief Administrative Officer Brian Anderson says there is some relief in the formula as the province does provide a partial rebate based on the salary level of the officers stationed in the community. In the last two years this has resulted in over $300,000 being returned, however, the rebate fluctuates each year as Constables of different pay grades transfer in and out of the community making it difficult to budget for.

Anderson and Vinet say their lobbying efforts will continue to call for the provincial government to provide financial relief as the municipal tax base cannot continue to carry the increasing costs. Neighbouring municipalities Pickle Lake and Sioux Lookout are receiving financial assistance from the province, however also formula driven, Red Lake doesn’t qualify as our community has approximately one officer for every 134 houses (one for every 100 houses is required for the assistance).

Currently the 2011 estimated costs break down to $1,098 per unit household which is the highest in the province. A community with comparable population and geography, Greenstone, Ontario will pay $530 per unit household in 2011. Ear Falls, not currently under a policing contract, is expecting to pay $484 per unit household and has budgeted $250,000 for 2011. The officials also noted the cost of an independent municipal policing service similar to Dryden or Fort Frances would far exceed the current budgeted amounts causing a greater financial burden.

Wrapping up the discussion on the financial impact of municipal policing Anderson and Vinet make clear the issue is not with the level of service the community is receiving from the men and women stationed in the district but with the province and the 88 per cent cost increase since the Municipality entered into its first contract in 1999.

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