Ancaster councillor Lloyd Ferguson wasted little time questioning Chief Glenn De Caire on his budget expenditures during his debut on the Hamilton police services board.
Ferguson, who has been appointed by city council to fill in for suspended member Terry Whitehead, probed why police were so much over budget on their retirement and sick day payouts for 2012.
A report presented to the board on Monday showed the payouts for retirement were $800,000 more than the $500,000 budgeted, while for sick days they were $342,000 above the $1 million budgeted.
Police dipped into a reserve fund to cover an overall operating deficit of nearly $300,000.
“There’s some pretty significant swings. Does that concern you chief or is that typical, something you would see in the service?” Ferguson said. “It drew my attention that your revenue expenses were exactly the same to the dollar, which was interesting, but it looks like you’re transferring out of reserve funds to be able to do that and particularly the sick day draw down. Does that worry you?”
De Caire replied that the over expenditures reflected an unusually high number of retirements and that the reserve fund is there to cover such shortfalls.
He said 20 to 25 officers and civilians typically leave the service each year, but 52 did so last year.
“The problem being often in the budgeting process is that those that wish to retire and are going to retire often hold their cards quite close to their chests and don’t give much notice to the service, so we work an awful lot off trends in those areas,” De Caire said. “This year, the trend is not what we saw the year before, so we’re expecting that to be lower at this point.”
Also on Monday, the board elected Mayor Bob Bratina to replace outgoing chair Nancy DiGregorio, who announced she was vacating the post earlier this year.
Bratina, who called the new role “an honour,” thanked DiGregorio for her work and leadership over the course of her two-and-a-half-year reign. De Caire echoed the remarks, stating that she was “the consummate professional.”
The meeting was the first one since May, after questions were raised by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission about whether council could temporarily appoint Ferguson to fill in for Whitehead, who is suspended for allegedly violating code of conduct rules at board meetings.
Walt Juchniewicz, who was appointed by council to replace Jim Kay after the former fire chief quit the board in January, also made his debut on Monday during the board’s 75-minute sprint through three agendas stretching back to June.
Afterwards, Ferguson said he was happy with his first showing on the board.
“I thought I had the opportunity to put (in) some input. What drew my attention to it (the budget) was that the revenue expenses were exactly the same to the dollar until you look into it,” he said. “They appeared to dip into some reserve funds in what looked to be a pretty steep way and I wanted to make sure the chief is comfortable with that. I always watch trends and I’ll see how that unfolds itself now over the next little while.”