Esquimalt stands to save roughly $602,000 a year under independently recommended changes to the budget allocation formula under the Victoria/Esquimalt policing framework agreement.
Doug LePard Consulting, commissioned by the province to analyze each municipality’s financial contribution to the shared police operations, and ongoing issues relating to the joint policing arrangement, released its findings recently in two reports.
The Victoria and Esquimalt police board recommended both councils support a transition to the new funding model for 2021.
The report stated that the current formula – it was due for renegotiation in 2017 – is “somewhat unfair to Esquimalt because its allocation is fixed at 14.7 per cent, which is greater than its share of the demand for service, and it does not adjust for changes in demand.”
The new formula is designed to be phased in over two years to make the transition more gradual for Victoria, which would eventually fund 86.33 per cent of VicPD’s budget, while Esquimalt would contribute 13.67 per cent.
“Not only have we been paying more than our fair share, it also shows we are also being provided more service than we should be, which would then provide more reduction in the cost,” said Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins, board co-chair.
LePard’s financial analysis acknowledged the distribution of available officers between Victoria and Esquimalt leaves the latter with more staffing than its demand for service requires. He also noted that Victoria faces “core city” policing workload challenges that go beyond population weighted division of financial responsibility.
The issue of resource deployment by VicPD is complex, especially since it services two communities with different needs and expectations, said Deputy Chief Colin Watson. A dispute resolution mechanism exists to handle concerns, such as Esquimalt wanting to give up its “extra” officers to save money, or wonders why certain officers based in the township respond to calls across the border in Vic West. But Watson noted it’s critical that everyone understands the implications of changes.
“I think the important next conversation is, if there is a change, this is what that means in practice, in reality, this is what the potential impact is,” he said.
Watson recognizes that both municipalities “have their pencils sharp” in budget discussions, especially for policing. From VicPD’s standpoint, he said, “our job is to pay close attention to what’s going on in the communities and do our best to respond appropriately.”