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2017 provisional police budget calls for another increase

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
November 21st, 2017

A third time’s the charm as the city’s police board has again come to city council for its annual budgetary ask and requested another significant increase to its budget for the third year in a row.

With a 6.8 per cent increase bolstering the board’s previous budget in their back pockets, the Nelson police board’s powers-that-be delivered their 2018 provisional budgetary wish list Monday in council chambers.

And it did not deviate from the 2017 request, or the 2016 request, with a 3.2 per cent increased asked for, an overall net cost increase to the city of $102,221.

Nelson police board members Liz Edwards, Am Naqvi and Hilda Taylor were joined by NPD chief constable Paul Burkart in delivering the 2018 provisional budget.

The NPD’s provisional budget of $3,278,064 was up by $147,539 over the 2017 model, said Burkhart.

The “increase is almost exclusively due to wage increases and related costs contained in the collective agreement,” he said in his report to council.

Wages and benefits for police have risen 38 per cent over the 10-year period leading into 2017, Burkhart explained, but the city’s sworn staff  still “continue to be the lowest paid” of the municipal departments in B.C.

“Over time, these increases have eroded each dollar given to us for operations and other initiatives,” he said.

Wages and benefits currently represent approximately 90 cents out of each budget dollar.

As it stands, the NPD’s approximately $4-million budget makes up 22 per cent of the city’s budget. However, the police added its first officer in over 20 years this year and chief constable Burkhart had explained to council that the workload for NPD officers — particularly the handling of mental health cases — has increased in the last few years.

Nelson’s caseload of 47 per member is the third highest in the province among other independent municipal police services behind only Victoria and New Westminster. Other departments comparable in size — Central Saanich and Oak Bay — have caseloads of 18 and 22.

“They have 24 members responding to 4,300 calls; we are 18 members answering 6,300 calls,” said Burkhart in the presentation to council.

In addition, calls for service for the NPD are up 134 calls to-date — as of Oct. 31.

In their presentation to council the board outlined five challenges the police will face next year, including safe streets, protecting people in the city and their property. This challenge involved injuries to NPD members due to the increase in street level violence and mental health issues.

A provincial policing standards review, the addition of bylaw adjudication, the increasing costs of policing and replacing the current police radio system rounded out the challenge list.

In the next year the NPD plans further expansion of the beat officer positions to address various public order, street and traffic, and community safety bylaws.

As well, in order to maximize the time operational officers are actually out in the community and to reduce workloads on existing sworn and civilian staff, the NPD will use additional civilian members to accomplish administrative tasks.

In compliance with the B.C. Police Act, the Nelson police board is required to have an approved provisional police budget for 2018 by November 30, 2017. However, the board submitted its provisional budget for receipt but not approval on Monday.

The 2018 police board budget ultimately requires council’s approval, a decision that will be forthcoming during the city’s annual five-year financial planning process — a process that it currently underway and will conclude in March.

During pre-budget talks two years ago city council denied a request by NPD for an additional $311,000 to the police budget to cover the cost of two additional officers and an administrator.

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

Department overview

  • 19 – Sworn personnel; there are 18 positions presently filled.
  • 5 – Reserve police officers; with the intent to engage up to five more by 2018.
  • 4 – Full-time and four part-time police dispatchers and dispatch support.
  • 3 – Sworn members seconded to the Integrated Road Safety Unit.
  • 3 – Bylaw enforcement officers.
  • 2 – Victim services workers (integrated NPD/RCMP program).
  • 1 – Court liaison and bylaw adjudication clerk.
  • 1 – Executive assistant: department general secretary.
  • 1 – Part-time restorative justice coordinator; with 20 volunteers.

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