Councillors concerned with added policing costs

Some Kelowna city councillors are uncomfortable with the increased cost of adding three new RCMP officers and a civilian to the local police force.

Policing constituted the largest item on the budget, accounting for about 25 percent of the $103 million burden to taxpayers. The RCMP contract called for an unexpected increase of $6,550 per member, which added nearly $1.95 million to the budget.

The federal and provincial governments negotiate police wages, benefits and pensions, over which municipal governments have little say.  

"You try to keep your budget in line, but then you add members," Coun. Andre Blanleil said at Thursday's 2013 provisional budget review. "And when you add members, we've got this huge bump in wages."

Kelowna RCMP Supt. Bill McKinnon said his hands were tied.

"Your concerns are my concerns," he said. "I bring it up with our corporate branch all the time, that you can't keep bringing surprises to our budget and adding these things when it isn't in the initial budget. That's what seems to continually happen. We're at the mercy of the corporate. We don't have any control over that."

Coun. Luke Stack said he understood that the city has to keep up with the area's growth, but he added that councillors must always keep the interests of taxpayers foremost.

"This is a 4.7-percent increase that we have to absorb as a city," he said. "I know that these things are done at a very high level, but it sure makes it challenging for us as a city to expand our police forces and do what we're needing to do as when we are challenged with increases of this magnitude.

"I'm hoping we don't see this increasing each year, but I think it's worth everyone knowing that the city is absorbing a 4.7 percent increase for the services that we are providing today to maintain them. That's one of the challenges we have when we try to keep our overall taxes down."

John Sleeper

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