The Vancouver Police Board has successfully appealed a City of Vancouver decision that cut millions from the police budget and the timing means the cost won’t hit taxpayers until next year.
Vancouver police Chief Adam Palmer says a provincial report from the director of police services has ordered the city to restore $5.7-million to the department’s 2021 budget.
Chief Palmer says in a statement that the removal of that funding directly affected the number of police officers the department was able to hire to meet the city’s policing needs.
City manager Paul Mochrie says in an e-mail that the ruling is being reviewed but “will result in an additional $5.7-million in expenses on top of the already approved 2022 budget.”
Vancouver is not allowed to run a deficit and Mr. Mochrie says the budget process for this year is complete so reserves will be used to offset the shortfall.
He warns permanent funding must be found to balance next year’s accounts and says property taxes pay for most public-safety costs, so a tax increase of about 0.6 per cent will likely be needed in 2023 to pay for the restored police budget.
Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart says council decided to reduce the police department’s 2021 budget “during the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic when all departments were asked to do more with less.”
“It is important to note that at no time did the Vancouver Police Department lack access to requested funds thanks to the City’s budget reserves,” Mr. Stewart said in a statement.
Although the police budget was reduced last year, Mr. Mochrie said department spending did not reflect that and the police force ended the year with a deficit of $10.5-million, half of it because of the disputed 2021 shortfall, while increases in benefits and an arbitrated wage settlement made up the rest.
“The VPD budget represents 21 per cent of the city’s total budget, and 27 per cent of the nonutility portion of the budget,” Mr. Mochrie said in the e-mail.
Chief Palmer defended police spending in 2021, saying Vancouver has been “gripped by an abundance of public safety challenges, including the ongoing Lower Mainland gang conflict, a surge in violent street crime, nearly 1,000 protests, concerning levels of hate crime, and a growing number of people who tell us they just don’t feel as safe as they used to.”
“I have every confidence that a fully funded Vancouver Police Department can continue to combat the public safety challenges we face.”
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