Budget could be a whopper

A request for six new RCMP officers could mean a substantial hike to the City of Vernon's 2018 budget and an increase in property taxes next year.

“The proposed 2018 budget is focussed on public safety...this doesn't come without a cost,” Will Pearce, chief executive officer, told city councillors on Tuesday. “As a municipality, Vernon does face significant and complex social challenges.”

Pearce's comments followed a lengthy presentation from Vernon/North Okanagan RCMP Supt. Jim McNamara who said that without more policing resources, “there will be risks to the citizens of Vernon and its police officers.”

Pearce said that city administration believes the RCMP need the six additional positions and would be recommending their approval during budget deliberations.

Looking at the numbers so far:

  • staff have proposed a 1.57 per cent rise in operating costs for next year
  • the 1.9 per cent infrastructure levy is an annual hike
  • the cost of six more cops would add another 2.9 per cent to operating costs

In all, the increases would work out to a 6.38 per cent rise to the city's budget.

In dollar terms, the RCMP detachment costs the City of Vernon $8,687,949 per year. The addition of six officers (and subsequent costs) would increase the price of policing to $11,218,588 per year.

Pearce said challenges facing the city in terms of homelessness and an entrenched street population are “issues that do not have short term solutions. They just don't. It will take a number of years, working with our partners, to resolve them.”

He said supportive housing and safe predictable shelter were key to a lasting solution.

The CEO also reminded councillors said that both the RCMP and the city's bylaw officers required sufficient resources to be able to maintain "reasonable levels" of order and safety.

Included in the proposed operating budget is $84,800 for increased bylaw enforcement in Vernon's downtown and city parks during the summer months.

While city councillors generally acknowledged the RCMP detachment needs more officers, some questioned the number while others said they would wait for budget talks.

“The biggest factor in all of this is, would it make our community safer and is there a price on safety? There never is,” said Mayor Akbal Mund. “It's something we will be discussing.”

“I think there's a good case for more officers,” conceded Coun. Bob Spiers.

However, Spiers said there were items within the RCMP budget that the superintendent could look at cutting.

“I'm concerned about any budget that increases taxes,” said Spiers, adding that he would wait to see the numbers during budget deliberations.

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