Editorial: Big price tag for small town policing

$726,141. That’s what we’re paying for policing here in Peachland. The cost represents about 9% of the district’s total general operating costs, and this year, we’re paying $24,770 more for the RCMP to protect our town.

We taxpayers are on the hook for that cost, says Doug Pryde, Peachland’s Director of Finance. Speaking to councillors during a recent pre budget meeting, he says policing costs are now funded 100% from municipal taxation.

“There is no longer any funding from the Policing Reserve that was used between 2012 to 2016 to mitigate the tax impact of policing costs added to the District budget in 2012 as a result of surpassing the 5,000 population mark identified in the 2011 census,” he tells the View.

Policing is one of the district’s largest budget categories, excluding collections for other bodies (such as school taxes), and depreciation. And similar to school taxes, RCMP costs are controlled by others, including the RCMP for member costs, the City of Kelowna for staff support costs and other expenses, and the City of West Kelowna, for staff support costs and RCMP facility costs.

These costs may fluctuate every year, depending on resource requirements from those authorities, says Pryde.

“Each year the District receives a request from the RCMP of any changes in the number of RCMP members required to serve the community. Every year the district reports four RCMP members are required. The district pays the federal government for RCMP member contract costs, the City of Kelowna for staff support costs and prisoner costs, and the City of West Kelowna for accommodation costs (detachment facility), staff support costs, and the Liaison Officer,” he says.

It’s a hefty price to pay, says Mayor Cindy Fortin. And with a string of recent business break-ins, and reports of suspicious people around town, she wants to see more RCMP patrols — and a better deal for Peachland.

“For a small town, Peachland pays a lot for policing. Unfortunately that amount more than doubled when the 2016 census placed our population over 5000 residents. It put a huge strain on our finances.”

The formula that’s used to calculate how much we pay desperately needs an overhaul, Fortin adds.

“There needs to be a consideration of fairness and affordability for small-sized communities.”

It would also help if West Kelowna increased their RCMP member numbers, says the mayor, to free up an officer to patrol Peachland at all times.

“I know they’re working on it, but at the end of the day it all comes down to cost and recruitment,” she says.

Toni Boot is the mayor of Summerland. She’s also the Director at Large of SILGA, the Southern Interior Local Government Association. Speaking at council’s last Committee of the Whole meeting, Boot says Peachland’s policing concerns are shared by many smaller centres.

“The population of Peachland is 5,400. To go from under 5,000 to a little over makes a huge difference to your budgeting. Our ask to the province was if there could be a change in formula, or even what the municipalities pay, if it could be evened out.”

There’s been no response yet. And none from the RCMP yet, either. To be fair, I asked for their input pretty close to deadline for this week’s paper, and their communications officer is unavailable right now. But rest assured, I’m keeping on this, because I think we deserve some insight on what we’re paying for exactly. We all understand policing isn’t just about being visible and cruising Beach Avenue. Every break-in victim I’ve talked to, has praised the RCMP for their quick response to their businesses and for their professionalism. We know they’re working behind the scenes on things we don’t see. What we want to see, however, is some kind of assurance that we’re getting a fair deal. It doesn’t look that way right now.

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2 Comments

  1. Nick Walsh
    February 21, 2019 at 2:17 pm - Reply

    The RCMP are, in my view, Canada’s largest street gang. You can’t get anything seriously done with the RCMP unless they check in with Ottawa. They are always going to be more concerned about who they offend, or which group they make to feel “unsafe”.

    It’s time we thought outside of the box. We could pay three constables in a municipal force at $80K a pop, along with admin staff and vehicles and still come out way ahead of the $750K we are paying for right now.

    But is it more than just the cost. Homegrown constables have skin in the game. We could recapture revenue by ticketing speeders in the community and busting the grow-ops. Not only would our own cops be a cost saving, but also they would be way more effective. I’ve lived here for three years and have never seen a cop once! Only at a distance as they attend traffic accidents. And attending accidents on the 97 is NOT a municipal expense. The province would have to pay for RCMP to attend those accidents – completely outside of our own municipal force. We may even be able to partner with 1st Nations and get some federal funding as well.

    Continuing to pay for RCMP protection is a shell game. They will be livid at the suggestion that we don’t need them, but such is life. The screaming is never louder than when you are directly over the target.

  2. Jim and Marily Dodd
    February 23, 2019 at 4:27 pm - Reply

    Cannot agree with you more. We would like to see the Municipal Council look into the cost of providing our own Police Force, and or contact all the other BC municipalities around our size and try to raise support through UBCM to have the province rethink the way policing costs are charged to small towns. It would be intresting to know what percentage of their budget of the cities in the lower mainland, Kamloops, Kelowna, Penticton,Prince George, etc. Is designated for police protection.

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