After months of debate, Victoria council has made a decision on the Victoria Police budget.
The City will not cover the $690,000 employer’s health tax, but found funding for the cost in the VicPD’s budget by cutting certain requests and shifting funds. This, said Coun. Ben Isitt, will avoid police employee layoffs and drop the City’s projected tax increase from 4.3 per cent to 3.9 per cent.
“Because our provisional budget from City staff had anticipated the Employer’s Health Tax might be funded through an additional tax increase, council dug into the numbers … and we were able to drill down with the VicPD, and there were a number of potential savings,” Isitt said. “This is a good news story.”
VicPD Chief Const. Del Manak had said in previous council meetings that if the police department was responsible for the Employer’s Health Tax, up to nine civilian positions could be cut. However, Isitt claimed that with these new spending cuts, no layoffs will need to take place.
Council approved a version of the VicPD budget revision which cut five non-staffing expenditures, totalling $212,000. This included changes and cuts to the VicPD’s DNA analysis measures – due to the low frequency of use – a change to its CCTV maintenance contract, a change to the landline/mobility contract, different approaches to management training, and a change in officers’ roles at special events. Council also approved the VicPD’s suggestion of cutting one new help desk position, amounting to $75,000 but said would consider it in 2020.
Council denied a retirement payout increase from the police reserve fund. The VicPD had requested an increase from $400,000 to $700,000 for retirement payout fund due to a high number of retiring officers, but the city voted to keep it at the current amount.
Council also voted to not increase the capital reserve fund, which is used to purchase equipment and vehicles. VicPD originally requested an increase from $765,000 to $1,156,000.
“Through those reductions to the reserves, we were able to cover the Employers’ Health Tax and the six officers,” Isitt said.
In February, Victoria and Esquimalt were ordered by the provincial director of police services to approve VicPD’s 2018 budget request for six new officers. The department had submitted an appeal to the province after this request was initially denied. Hiring six additional officers added $300,000 to the 2019 budget.
“This resolves the issue of the 2019 police budget,” Isitt said. “City council has delivered a reduction in the projected tax increase without any layoffs. This demonstrates that we can pursue fiscal restraint in policing expenditures without compromising public safety.”
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, who also co-chairs the Victoria-Esquimalt Police Board with Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins, was not entirely happy with the decision.
“It’s good to see no layoffs take place, but the compromise still asks police to dig a little deeper,” Helps said. “I think the employer’s health tax should have been funded through the city, but this is council’s direction to the police board.”
VicPD Chief Constable Del Manak was unavailable for comment at the time of publication but will be speaking with Black Press Media on the decision later today.
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