Draft police budget shows costs up $1.2 million

By Miriam King, Bradford Times

South Simcoe Police Chief Andrew Fletcher presents the draft Operating and Capital Budgets to the Police Services Board, in Innisfil, Ont. on Monday October 23, 2017. Miriam King/Bradford Times/Postmedia Network

South Simcoe Police Chief Andrew Fletcher presents the draft Operating and Capital Budgets to the Police Services Board, in Innisfil, Ont. on Monday October 23, 2017. Miriam King/Bradford Times/Postmedia Network

The South Simcoe Police Service presented its draft 2018 Operating and Capital Budgets to the Police Services Board on Monday – and there was slight sense of “sticker shock.”

The operating budget is up $1.218 million from 2017 –   from $16.878 million, after grants, to about $18.096 million, or an increase of 7.22%.

Police Chief Andrew Fletcher explained that the increase includes the negotiated 1.9% increase in salaries and benefits, which accounts for 88.6% of the Service's operating costs.

He also framed the increase in terms of the explosive growth of Bradford West Gwillimbury and Innisfil, identified as the “third fastest-growing community in all of Ontario.”

Since 2007, Innisfil has seen a 17% growth in population, to about 36,500 people in 2017. Bradford West Gwillimbury has seen a 46.9% increase in population, with a population of 35,325. That growth is expected to continue in 2018, adding nearly 500 new households in BWG, and 775 new units in Innisfil.

One result of that growth has been a “tremendous increase in calls for service,” the Chief noted – from approximately 16,000 calls in 2015, to 28,476 in 2017. The biggest increases are in domestic violence (up 12%), driving complaints (up 13%), mental health calls (52%), and drugs (up a whopping 176%).

The Operating Budget proposes hiring four new constables – two of them experienced Constables 1st Class, and two recruits, who will attend police college before starting work in the fall as Constables 4th Class – and one new Special Constable for court duty, replacing a Sgt. It will bring the complement to 128 sworn officers and civilian staff in 2018, with more sworn officers assigned to front line duties.

“We took under consideration our population growth,” including the secondary impacts on traffic and crime trends, Chief Fletcher told the Board. “Obviously, in order to meet that growth,  rather than being reactive we are attempting to be proactive.”

And just as development charges cover the cost of growth-related infrastructure, the additional tax assessment produced by growth in the two Towns will offset most of the projected increase in the budget, leaving a net impact of under 2% on the tax rate – about $42 per household, “or 80 cents per week.”

Chief Fletcher noted that the police-to-population ratio in South Simcoe works out to approximately 116 sworn officers per 100,000 population – compared to the provincial average of 187 officers per 100,000. “We're bordering on being understaffed for the needs of this community, as we grow,” he said.

Fletcher provided details of the budget – including a big jump in revenues from the “1000 Officer” mobilization grant, but also a “considerable jump” in administration costs (up by $435,131), as positions are shifted, and in costs for communications and IT, as contractual obligations  increase.

The service has also looked at cost-cutting measures. South Simcoe Police will no longer assign a uniformed officer to media relations and corporate communications, but will fill the position with a civilian contract , at “a considerable savings.”

Chief Fletcher presented a 5- year Capital Budget plan to the Board. For 2018, the capital budget request was $830,073 - “$84,000 less than our capital budget for 2017.”

Among the purchases proposed – truck weigh scales, to assist with collision investigations; new intoxilizers and devices to measure THC in the bloodstream of drivers suspected of using drugs; upgrades to aging computers and computer programs; and $367,108 to purchase new vehicles.

South Simcoe Police no longer lease their police cruisers, eliminating a line in the Operating budget, but are now in a cycle of replacing purchased vehicles – 6 in 2018.

Over the longer term, the capital requests are expected to decrease to $500,00 per year, within 5 years.

BWG and Innisfil split the cost of policing, based on a costing formula that looks at factors that include population and number of households.

BWG Mayor Rob Keffer expressed concern over the $1.2 million increase in the budget. “I want to make sure we're getting as many new police officers as possible, with the increase in salaries,” he said.

He was assured that the new hires were “strictly an enhancement,” that will be “strictly assigned to frontline duties, based on growth in the communities.”

The Board deferred a decision on the budget, requesting additional information and clarification,for its November 20 meeting.