Mayor Jim Watson’s 2% tax cap promise could throw a curveball at the Ottawa Police Service, which has been planning for a 2.5% hike each year until at least 2017.
From the 2014 police budget:
“We always present a four-year outlook and that four-year outlook projected a 2.5% increase in our police budget to deal with the pressures that we have, but at the same time delivering on a $2.5-million efficiency as well,” Chief Charles Bordeleau told reporters today.
Bordeleau didn’t say that the police force will try to get the rate hike down to 2%. The service continues to find savings, Bordeleau said, but we all know that if Watson wins the election, police will have to reassess their spending plans.
This all might sound familiar.
Police, under former chief Vern White, had to rejig their budget after Watson won the 2010 election with a 2.5% promise.
So how would police do it this time?
For one, looking at more uniform positions that can be held by civilians.
And the force is trying out new ways to handle recurring calls, such as crashes. Now police have collision reporting centres.
There’s also an interesting matter of the police force’s hiring plans starting in 2015. An extra 23 officers were to join the service each year until at least 2017, but Bordeleau said police brass are taking a look at their forecasts to see if it’s necessary. He didn’t draw a line between the Watson 2% promise and the hiring analysis, but holding off on new cops would certainly provide the necessary budget relief.
There are some statistics and reports pulling the force in different directions. A Fraser Institute study released today put Ottawa-Gatineau police in the “understaffed” category. But then we have evidence that Ottawa police’s emergency calls are decreasing.
On top of all this, arbitration awards could throw financial plans off track.
Watson would have a good idea what the police’s requirements are as mayor and a member of the police services board.
I’m not predicting any drama with the 2015 police budget in December if Watson wins re-election. Police have shown they can find savings and I don’t think Bordeleau is the kind of chief who wants to poke City Hall over money.