Halifax regional council voted to defer a decision on Halifax Regional Police’s 2018-19 budget proposal on Wednesday. The issue for council was $555,000 in the proposal to hire seven new employees — three full-time HRP officers and four others in civilian positions.
There was concern from several council members over how this would impact the budget in future years.
“One of the things we have to be very careful of is that we don’t get through this year and get stuck with costs in the years to come,” said Mayor Mike Savage after the meeting, while praising the HRP’s work.
“We have a duty as councillors to make sure that it makes sense and is also something that the people of the HRM can afford.”
During the meeting, Savage said it’s a tough year for the budget. Council is expecting a 1.9 per cent increase to the average homeowners tax bill. He would like a more detailed plan on the proposed seven new HRP positions, that would perhaps include a multi-year rollout.
Coun. Steve Craig, chair of the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners, said that the commission will create a new budget proposal that is $550,000 less. Council will have the option to accept either the original proposal or the new proposal on March 28.
“Nothing’s off the table yet,” said Craig after the meeting.
The $555,000 was part of an $8.4 million increase over what had been approved in principle by council for the 2018-19 budget.
The other $7.845 million is to meet collectively bargained wage increases. This includes back-pay for the last three to four years. The money for this year has been accounted for in the fiscal services budget and will be transferred to the police budget, if the proposal is approved in March.
Also, included in the HRP proposal was a request for $225,000 to add six new RCMP officers at a 70 per cent cost to the municipality. If hired, they would be the first new additions to the force since 2010.
During the meeting, RCMP Chief Supt. Lee Bergerman ensured Savage these positions would not go into effect without a guarantee that 30 per cent of their salary would be covered by external sources.
A separate motion to add the six new RCMP officers to the parking lot for the 2018-19 budget passed. The parking lot is a list of budget requests that have been temporarily passed, but will be reassessed by council before being included in the 2018-19 budget.
Council will debate it further in March.