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COMMUNITY COLUMNIST: Police budget should focus on needs, not wants

At the last police services board meeting we further discussed the amended budget request that Chief Glenn De Caire proposed. The original request was for a 5.25-per-cent increase is now down to a 4.75-per-cent increase. The police services board did not support this request and directed the chief to further lower the budget request.
The chief will suggest to you that the budget request is consistent with the business plan. He is right! The plan needs to change. Development of any plan that has significant budget implications must consider the level of service based on the taxpayer’s ability to pay. Even the consultant that facilitated the development of the business plan made mention of this important fact.
Police costs have risen from 2004 at about $300 per average assessed household to over $800 on that same household today. Since 2008, the police budget has increased by over 20 per cent while the city departments cumulatively came in at 13 per cent. The police budget has increased more than $24 million since 2008.
I believe we have one of the best police services in the country. The delivery of overall service is exemplary. We have many frontline police officers that are skilled, perform their duties and are amongst the best in the country. Yes, there have been a few bad apples; however, that is the exception to the many great men and women in the service that wear their uniform and perform their duties with pride.
I know that many of them would agree that we can continue to improve and provide a high standard of services with the current complement. Some have even suggested to get rid of the horse unit. After all, 72 arrests over a 21-month period works out to one arrest for every eight days by four officers and one sergeant. How does that compare with five officers assigned to policing a geographic area?
We should focus on needs not wants. The police budget cannot continue to eat up the financial capacity to deliver important services in our community. This is clearly not sustainable.
Secondly, I would like to apologize to my constituents for the inadequate snow removal service received during the Christmas holidays. Taxpayers expect that services will be provided that meet or exceed their expectations, or at the very least meet the service standards.
After all, the city expects you to remove snow from your sidewalks within 24 hours after a snowfall. I received numerous complaints after the last major snowfall and was able to speak with many of you by phone or at the end of your driveways four days after the storm, when your streets were finally being plowed.
Sidewalks were filled by city plows, community mailboxes were plowed in and a number of other concerns were brought to my attention.
I know that many of my council colleagues had similar experiences in their wards. I, with a number of my colleagues, met with city staff to express the frustration with the snow removal service and how we felt it failed the taxpayers of this community. Staff will be addressing this issue with a formal report that will be dealt with at council.
Your concerns were heard and will be addressed.
Terry Whitehead is councillor for Ward 8 (west Mountain). Columns from the Mountain’s councillors appear monthly on a rotating basis. If you would like to write in this space, call editor Gord Bowes at 905-664-8800 ext. 335.

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