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Dec 11,2008 Tri City News

By Bruce Walkinshaw - The Tri-City News

Published: December 11, 2008 6:00 PM

More cops, higher cost.

That was the message from Port Moody Police Board member Tarrance Grieve in asking city council for a 13.1% budget increase for PoMo Police Department next year.

Grieve presented the police department’s proposed 2009 annual budget to PoMo city council Tuesday night, asking for a net increase of $867,974.

According to Grieve’s report, PMPD spent $6,000,528 in 2007; has a current operating budget estimated at $6,627,409 for 2008; and proposes to spend $7,495,383 in 2009.

“We wish to better meet the rising expectations of the community,” said Grieve, explaining where the new proposed increases in police spending would be, starting with inflation estimated at 2%.

Grieve said that one of the biggest additions to the proposed 2009 budget would be an increase in labour costs with the hiring of three new police officers at a price of $194,986 to the city, as well as an extra $77,215 for extra staff hired this year and $462,400 for already negotiated salaries and benefits increases for existing officers and staff.

Assuming Port Moody’s population will be at 32,000 in 2009, Grieve reported that the three new additional police officers would improve the city’s officer-to-resident ratio from 1/669 to 1/642 costing, about $234 per capita.

“We are in the middle of the field,” said Grieve, pointing to a chart of city police department rates, with Victoria scoring the highest at 1/452 and Abbotsford bringing up the rear with 1/666 ratio of officers to residents.

(By comparison, the ratios last fall in Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam, which are served by Coquitlam RCMP, are 1/970 and 1/929 respectively.)

The new budget proposal also includes an increase of $91,383 to help improve service at the police department’s dispatch communication centre.

According to a police report, the centre does not currently have a large enough auxiliary dispatch worker pool to easily accommodate sudden or prolonged sickness. There is also only enough money to schedule one dispatcher at the centre at a time to handle emergency situations, causing great stress and lower response times.

Both Coun. Gerry Nuttall and Mayor Joe Trasolini spoke in favour of increasing the budget for the communication centre, with Trasolini calling the system in place now, “not sustainable at all.”

Other proposed new costs to the PoMo Police budget include $23,872 for increased vehicle and fuel costs and $36,100 for new community programs.

The police department’s 2009 capital budget is proposed to increase by $150,900 for new project costs and $51,500 for operating cost to provide: new police building needs and office storage space, new police dog services, network infrastructure improvements and a new jail-cell recording system, mandated by the provincial government.

After the report, Coun. Karen Rockwell noted that the proposed police budget would mean a 3.8% tax increase to residents.

“I do have to raise that as a serious flag to me around sustainability,”said Rockwell.

Rockwell said that at the next finance committee meeting, she will propose that the city set up a complete parallel budget for the police board, separate from the city’s larger budget, so that if taxes are raised due to an increase in police spending, residents may see exactly what services they are being provided.

Council will now review the proposed police budget before sending it to the city’s finance committee for discussion.

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