Regional council has approved a revised police budget that cut $882,000 from its original proposal, against the recommendation of the police commission.
The new budget reduces funding to “back of house” services, such as external lab DNA analysis, police software licensing and equipment repairs and maintenance. It also cuts funding to international mission recovery, of which there are currently no requests for at this time.
Approved Friday, the budget is a reduction from the original proposal, but still represents a four per cent increase overall.
Coun. Steve Craig, who chairs the board of police commissioners, was against the reduced proposal.
“We do not recommend this new revised budget,” said Craig, after his opening statements to the council.
Coun. Richard Zurawski also opposed the new budget.
“Policing has changed. This is not 1950, not 1970. We’ve got DNA, computers, internet, international crime, financial crime and the list goes on,” he said. “There is a necessity to have a more highly educated staff because of all these changes … I want to go back to the 2.7 per cent budget.”
The original $90,152,000 million budget was proposed in January. Policing accounts for approximately 22 per cent of total municipal spending. The original budget was consistent with a tax hike of 2.7 per cent, but council requested an alternative budget to limit the tax hike to 1.9 per cent.
Mayor Mike Savage supported the new proposal. He said the budget is still an increase in police funding.
“Let’s be clear this is not a cut … We are still increasing our funding by just over four per cent,” said Savage. “I just think we all need to be a little bit careful … Taxes are the price of democracy, but we do have to have some vigilance, when it comes to managing the budget.”
Another councilor who was against the budget, Shawn Cleary, criticized the police commission’s reduction proposal.
“I don’t feel like there is enough of an effort to reign in the growth of some departments … I think more pencils could have been sharpened and more efficiencies could have taken place,” said Cleary.