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No property tax increase expected despite increase in police staffing approved: Mayor

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
March 11th, 2016

Although the province has now recommended a staffing increase for the city’s police department, there won’t be a corresponding rise in taxation to cover the new positions, says the city’s mayor and police board chair.

Deb Kozak said there is no anticipated increase this year to the City of Nelson’s budget — delivered in draft form two weeks ago — in the wake of the announcement Thursday morning by the province recommending one additional police officer and an administrative position.

The report delivered by the director of Police Services, Clayton Pecknold, to city council and the Nelson Police Department board is a binding decision, but falls short of the two officers the police board had originally asked for.

Kozak said the outlook for the 2016 property taxes — expected to rise at least 1.75 per cent, along with other utility increases — would remain as outlined late last month.

“The department is currently filling three vacancies caused by two retirements and a resignation. That takes time,” she said.

She did not speculate what would happen financially once those positions were filled.

However, Pecknold’s decision isn’t the final word on the perceived staffing shortage within the NPD ranks, and the staffing figures could rise further.

There is expected to be an internal review of the NPD’s service delivery model to address “gaps” in the original police services review, conducted last fall, with a multi-year staffing and resource plan arising out of it.

Pecknold was charged with making a declaration on the minimal staffing required in Nelson under the B.C. Police Act, after the Nelson Police Department’s budget request for $311,000 — for two additional officers and one administrative position — was denied by city council last fall.

The NPD request cited an increase in workload as the reason for the staffing increase.

The review began when the Nelson police board voted to appeal city council’s decision to deny the extra funds to the province under a rarely used provision of the B.C. Police Act.

As it stands, the NPD’s approximately $4-million budget makes up 22 per cent of the city’s budget. However, the police have not added any officers in over 20 years and former chief constable Wayne Holland had explained to council that the workload for NPD officers — particularly the handling of mental health cases — had increased in the last few years.

A consultant hired by Pecknold to author an audit of the NPD’s request filed his report at the end of October. Peter Lapine’s audit examining police staffing in Nelson was reviewed by Nelson city council and the Nelson police board, with final comments on the findings being submitted back to the province Nov. 13.

Pecknold’s decision is a legal directive which city council must adhere to, said Kozak, under the auspices of the B.C. Police Act.

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