Shuswap municipal councils ponder potential impact of RCMP costs

District of Sicamous hoping to be consulted on hiring of new detachment commander.

Proposed changes to policing costs have raised eyebrows on Salmon Arm and Sicamous councils.

City of Salmon Arm of council was asked last week to approve, in principle, budgets of the Municipal Policing Contract, of which the city is responsible for 90 per cent. The budget for 2012/13 is $2,985,957, and the budget for 2013/14 is $3,233,791.

This does not include increases in the number of officers.

A memo to council from corporate services director Monica Dalziel explains the forecasted costs for 2013 amounts to a 1.25 per cent increase in taxes, with the incremental increase per RCMP member amounting to $8,562, to a total per member cost of $168,378.

While council is agreeing in principal, for the benefit of the Federal Treasury Board’s budgeting process, Dalziel notes that if the letter is not received, policing services could be reduced to the community.

Coun. Alan Harrison wasn’t concerned with the increase for 2012/13, but with the following year. He referred to a Union of B.C. Municipalities questionnaire to the province regarding the RCMPs recently completed contract with the Province of British Columbia. It states that the average increase for 2013/14 is 2.75 per cent. Harrison said Salmon Arm’s increase is six per cent, and that he’s working on finding out why.

“There may be a good reason for it,” said Harrison. “But with the information I have now, I couldn’t figure it out. I will figure it out before budget time, because I think it’s important for us to know.”

Mayor Nancy Cooper explained that the city prepays the RCMP each quarter and in some years, the city has seen money come back. In other years, the city has had to pay more. Regardless, Cooper suggested the way policing is done needs to be looked at.

“I just think about the medical system and we don’t go to the doctor for absolutely everything, and the doctor doesn’t do absolutely everything,” said Cooper. “We have quite a level of services from RNs to LPNs to home support to all kinds of things, and I think that the province and maybe all of the municipalities need to look at how we do policing and see if there are ways we can do things a little bit differently so we can better utilize the constables…”

The same UBCM document also states that, under the new policing contract, taxpayers in communities with populations of 5,000 or less will at some point in the future be paying more for policing via the provincial Police Tax.

This prompted some concern from Sicamous Couns. Fred Busch and Don Richardson, as well as Mayor Darrell Trouton. All three noted the vagueness of the information provided. It states it is anticipated that “increases to the Police Tax will parallel the increases to police costs in municipalities 5,000 to 15,000 population,” and that the tax is apportioned to property owners based on property assessments and population, so that “the increase may vary slightly for each property owner.”

Trouton called the replies “political” and said they don’t give much of an answer. Richardson questioned how Sicamous’ future budget would be impacted.

“They keep pushing this but there’s no numbers… We have to look at that before budgeting now because we never had to pay that before,” said Richardson “In negotiations it says municipalities will be given a chance to be informed, and so far we haven’t. So it’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out.”

Busch also raised another point from the questionnaire, that even small municipalities are to be consulted when a detachment commander is being hired. He noted that Sicamous’ detachment head, Sgt. Carl Vinet, is being transferred.

“We should, according to this, be consulted about his replacement. Have you heard anything about the process involved?” asked Busch. Trouton, however, said he had not yet been consulted, nor was he aware of anyone at the district who had.

“We’ll get consulted when he’s here and I think that’s their process,” said Trouton, who then concurred with Richardson that there’s a lot of things in the new policing agreement that need to be worked on.