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Halifax Police want big budget increase

Chief Frank Beazley asks for $5.7 million more.

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The Board of Police Commissioners is seeking an 8.25 percent increase in the budget for the Halifax Regional Police Department. If approved by city council, last year’s budget of $69,168,989 will increase by $5,705,951 to a total of $74,874,940.

Police chief Frank Beazley
  • Police chief Frank Beazley
Additionally, the RCMP will demand a 5.5 percent increase in the amount HRM pays the force for policing services in rural and suburban areas, says mayor Peter Kelly. Last year, the city paid $20,625,700 for RCMP services; a 5.5 percent increase amounts to $1,134,414, for a total of $21,760,114.

The total impact to the city budget for increased police costs would be $6,840,365.

In a presentation before the board, police chief Frank Beazley broke down the increased costs as follows:

  • • $2,314,897 in wage increases, including retirement and workers comp charges
  • • $898,100 increase in the overtime budget, which has been historically under-budgeted for
  • • $783,955 for “contractual obligations,” including most notably $120,000 added to the costs of witness protection, $100,000 to expand DNA testing and a one-time correction of an accounting error of $371,700.
  • • $1,624,000 reduction in “recoveries,” that is, officers who have been assigned to Haiti and elsewhere will return as HRPD employees.
  • • $100,000 for “Part VI” investigations, that is, wiretapping.

    The Board agreed to the request on a voice vote, and the matter will be taken up by city council at its budget session, which starts April 4.

    The suggested 8.25 percent increase in the police budget comes as council has directed staff to keep total budget increases limited to somewhere between the rate of inflation for the consumer price index, which is 2.9 percent this year, and the “municipal price index,” a measure that looks at only costs to city governments, which is 4.1 percent this year. Realistically, then, an increase in the police budget of this size means that other city operations and services will have to be cut.

    “How are we going to rationalize this to the other business units?” asked councillor and board member Sue Uteck. “So, for example, if I’m Community Development and Culture, and my budget just got cut by $300,000 but Frank [Beazley] is getting an increase, how do you look at balancing this out?”

    “The only changes that are in any business unit’s budgets,” answered city finance director Cathie O’Toole, “are driven by changes in the wage model, contracts and legislation---things that are unavoidable. I think it would be more difficult to justify to other business units if it was a matter of discretionary funding being added, or funding for new programs or services. But because every business unit is involved with the process, everybody’s doing the same process; they understand it. I doubt that there will be any questioning as to why police might receive an 8.25 percent increase versus, say, finance, whatever our percentage increase ends up being.”

    Any changes in those proposals would have to come at the council level, said O’Toole.

    At another point in the meeting Beazley noted that the violent crime rate has decreased in each of the last five years.

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