The Victoria Police Department will struggle to keep up following Victoria city council’s final 2019 budget decision said Chief Const. Del Manak.
After months of negotiations, city council approved a final budget that would see a 3.2 per cent increase in police costs after cutting $987,000 from the department’s requests.
The reallocation of remaining funds has ensured that no staff cuts will take place, but that the $690,000 employer’s health tax will fall within the police budget, where as all other city department’s have the cost covered by the City.
Manak found the decision to be bittersweet.
“I’m relieved that we’re not going to be facing any immediate lay-offs or any reductions in positions; no doubt there’s a sense of relief,” Manak said. “But, it doesn’t help me address the deficits and service gaps we’re facing. Our demands continue to increase … that seems to not be resonating with council.”
Part of the cuts saw a request for $700,000 in retirement funds limited to $400,000, something Manak says is unmanageable taking into account how many officers are retiring.
“They’ve decided to mortgage our future and basically we’re buying day-to-day groceries by cashing in our RRSPs,” Manak said. “The problem is I still need that $700,000 … So they’re saying ‘run that $300,000 line item and go to your bank,’ and that ends up as problem.”
The other big cost-cutter was limiting a capital reserve transfer to $765,000 where VicPD had requested $1.156 million.
The capital reserve costs are mainly used for vehicle fleet upgrades and IT infrastructure.
“There’s critical replacements we need; we have vehicle requirements, statutory requirements and legal requirements to upgrade, including our IT,” he said. ” I’ve got vehicles that have engines blowing, and I can’t have that.”
The capital reserve will now act as a savings account to compensate other costs, Manak explained. He said if the city sticks to the same ideology in the future, the VicPD reserve will run out within three years.
Large upcoming costs include a need for more IT equipment to keep up with digital needs, and funding for six provincially-mandated police officers. They will cost $300,000 in the 2019 budget, accounting for the officers’ September start date, but will cost $720,000 for the full year in 2020.
“I understand that council has to make tough decisions, and that they have a lot of priorities and challenges,” Manak said. “But it’s not for council to tell the police chief how to run the police department… Perhaps the role of the police board needs to be clarified so that council doesn’t step in and micromanage police management and work.”
Manak said that now the Victoria Police Department will have to work with the Victoria-Esquimalt Police Board to come up with a long-term financial solution.
Decisions will have to be made whether to approach the Police Services Division for the second year in a row to appeal the budget, he said, or if certain priorities will have to be deferred until a later date.
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