As the City of Victoria and the Township of Esquimalt continue to go through their respective budgets for 2023, both municipalities have agreed that VicPD’s proposed budget increase was too high.
On Monday, March 13th, the two municipal councils agreed that they would increase the budget for VicPD, but only to be consistent with the rate of inflation which is at 6.96%.
The Victoria and Esquimalt Police Board were asked by the councils to reduce their proposed budget from a 9.55% increase, to something in line with inflation.
The burden of VicPD’s budget which is negotiated by the Police Board is split between the two municipalities. Victoria picks up 62% of the tab, while Esquimalt covers the rest.
This is because a motion was brought before the Victoria city council by the Deputy City Manager to cap VicPD’s budget to be consistent with the rate of inflation and since that time the Police Board met and made a rebuttal to the two councils.
The Police Board claims that as per the Police Act, the requested amount of around $6.1 million is what is required by VicPD to “provide adequate and effective policing to the City and Township.”
“Therefore, the board is not prepared to amend the budget as requested by council,” wrote a Police Board spokesperson in a letter to the councils.
No other department in the City of Victoria is getting anything more than a 6.96% increase to their budget as they have all complied with the city’s request to keep their budget requests below that.
“First of all I’d like to say that I’m quite disappointed in the Board’s reluctance to reassess their 2023 budget with the same type of analysis or rigor as other departments in the city,” said Mayor Marianne Alto as an opening comment about the Police Board’s letter to council.
“I’m also quite disappointed that the Police Board is taking what I would consider to be a fairly passive approach to what I would call ‘sound fiscal management and oversight’ of the draft budget which in my mind disregards the financial limitations of Victoria’s taxpayers.”
Mayor Alto then quoted the Police Act which says that city council has the right not to approve items in a draft police budget.
She continued to refer to the Police Board’s present and past actions and budget refusals as ‘charades’ that ultimately lead to lengthy appeals by the board and forced allocations on behalf of the city.
In the Victoria city council meeting, the mayor brought up an excel spreadsheet detailing what the Police Board was asking and what Mayor Alto, city councillors and city staff were suggesting in terms of amendments.
Mayor Alto then reiterated that she needs to mitigate the Police Board’s request on behalf of VicPD in order to take the financial burden of running the city off of the taxpayers in Victoria, and Esquimalt did the very same thing for the same reasons.
There are five positions VicPD hoped to hire for, including one-of-three new police officers, a training specialist, a records supervisor, a police file archivist and a financial analyst that the Victoria council suggested not hiring this year, despite the roles being important.
The council also suggested that a body camera pilot project, which was proposed not be adopted this year, along with some building maintenance and contractors be put off until later years.
The total suggested budget revisions for VicPD would bring the proposal down by around $1.7 million, bringing their budget closer to a 7% increase.
The councillors spent around two hours debating the merits of what the suggested revisions are and how they will affect the policing of Victoria and Esquimalt. They spent a particularly long time debating whether or not they should allow for all three of the new police officers to be included in the budget.
The Esquimalt council denied all seven proposed positions in their budget meeting, including the three new officers.
The Victoria council ended up voting down the amendment to hire all three new officers in a six to three vote.
The councillors then suggested additional amendments over the course of the meeting, and debated the areas of suggested budget cuts to the Police Board. Ultimately, the suggested cuts remained similar to the council’s jumping off point of amendments to the Police Board’s draft financial budget.
Following the council agreeing upon the amendments, from here the Police Board can either enter into negotiations with both city councils, or they can make appeals which draws out the process and ultimately leads to further tension between the councils and Police Board.