March 17, 2016 - 11:30 AM
KAMLOOPS - Part of the pot of money the city sets aside to pay for unexpected increases in the cost of police service in Kamloops is going to go to storm infrastructure.
City finance director Kathy Humphrey says the reserve reached $4.5 million by the end of 2015 and with the Kamloops RCMP consistently understaffed, the surplus will likely continue to grow.
“We have a 130 police members the police have committed to us, but they’ve never provided us with that many,” Humphrey says. “We budget for 123 (officers).”
There are currently the equivalent of 106 full-time RCMP members in Kamloops, the lowest number in recent years, she says. The most the city has had was 117.
The total policing cost for Kamloops is approximately $23 million a year with the city on the hook 90 per cent, or $20.8 million, according to Humphrey. As the city hasn’t had a full staff of RCMP members, the actual police budget is around $19.75 million, though it’s always under that. The surplus money goes into the police reserve fund.
“It’s just a general reserve that we say is for the police,” Humphrey says. “There’s no legislation covering it.”
She says the police reserve is intended to cover any unexpected rise in police costs, which may come from the hiring of more staff, a RCMP wage increase or overtime due to major police incidents. Humphrey says most cities don’t have a police reserve fund, instead rolling any budget surpluses into the city’s general reserve.
City councillors agreed at the Tuesday, March 15 supplemental budget meeting to use money from the police reserve fund to help pay for storm infrastructure upgrades. The city’s finance department determined the current $4.5 million cushion is enough to absorb any rise in policing costs in the foreseeable future.
As Kamloops has faced significant weather events over the past few years, city staff asked council to approve storm infrastructure upgrades over four years. The final cost of the upgrades has not been determined, though the current plan is for about $900,000 a year be put towards the storm project.
The first phase, which is budgeted for $980,000, will be paid for through the reserve fund’s upcoming surplus.
Mayor Peter Milobar says using the police reserve fund avoids a larger property tax increase and gets the project moving while waiting for potential grants to come in.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016