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Chief and police board knock heads over budget increase

By Richard Leitner, News Staff

Hamilton Police Chief Glenn De Caire is being asked to cut his proposed 2013 budget for a second time.

But how deep he’s willing or expected to take his knife remained unclear even to some members of the police board on Monday at the end of a three-hour meeting.

They simply directed him “to determine whether any further savings can be found” in a revised budget that increases spending by $6.4 million.

That represents a 4.75 per cent hike and is down from an initial $7.12 million, or 5.25 per cent, a cut achieved by spreading out the hiring of 20 new officers and a civilian support staff over two years.

“I think there has to be language that quantifies a difference than what we’re dealing with today, versus ‘bring something less,’” said Councillor Terry Whitehead, who unsuccessfully pushed for the increase to be limited to between three and 3.5 per cent.

“I don’t want 0.2 per cent (less). We might as well approve the budget that is here today.”

Board chair Nancy Di Gregorio said she expects De Caire to come back “with efficiencies” that reduce the increase below 4.75 per cent and sided with the three other citizen appointees to defeat a motion for the lower target.

That left Mayor Bob Bratina, Councillor Bernie Morelli and Whitehead on the losing end, with the latter snapping afterwards at city appointee Jim Kay, “That’s the last time you’ll sit here.”

De Caire issued his own threat, warning he’ll consider taking the budget to arbitration before the Ontario Civilian Police Commission if the board or council try to force bigger cuts.

He said the police collective agreement alone requires a 3.62 per cent increase, making it “impossible” to reduce the budget to three per cent without cutting 19 jobs.

“Should the direction come forth at either the board level or the city level that a three-per-cent budget is to be in place for this service, this service will review the legal options available to it with respect to the Police Services Act and the requirement in law to provide adequate and effective delivery of service,” he said.

But Morelli said it’s the chief’s job to figure out a way to cut his request and past efforts have done so without going to arbitration.

He said a 4.75-per-cent increase won’t fly at city hall and urged the chief to work toward the three-per-cent goal.

“We’re close to the taxi strip. We’re not even ready for takeoff,” Morelli said. “Find a way that we get to three or in around there and find a way that doesn’t hurt this community.”

De Caire is expected to present any changes to the police board on Jan. 21, in time for a presentation to council on Jan. 24.

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