Increased RCMP ranks considered in budget talks

Vernon’s police force insists it can’t keep doing more with less

Vernon’s police force insists it can’t keep doing more with less.

City council was told Thursday that there’s a need to bolster the RCMP ranks from 48 to 50.

“It would be dollars well spent if it allows us to provide the service we were at in 2012,” said Insp. Jim McNamara, acting officer-in-charge of the detachment.

The detachment previously was funded for 50 officers but that was reduced by two individuals as the city attempted to reduce overall expenditures.

There is an average cost of $164,000 per officer.

McNamara says it’s increasingly challenging for the force to provide programs based on 48 officers, and considerable time is now directed to paperwork related to cases.

McNamara presented three options to council for consideration, including funding 50 officers in 2016 or increasing the workforce to 49 in 2016, with a commitment for an additional officer in 2017.

The third option is to maintain the status quo at 48 officers.

“That will result in reduced police service,” said McNamara, adding that no decision has been made on possible cuts.

“It could be enhanced services like downtown enforcement or the school liaison.”

No decisions about the RCMP request for two additional officers were made by council Thursday as the 2016 budget process has just begun.

“I will wait until it’s presented within the budget context. It would be another point-and-a-half to the budget (taxes), but there could be ways around it,” said Coun. Bob Spiers.

Senior city administration is proposing an overall 2016 tax year of 3.7 per cent, with 1.9 per cent going to a statutory fund for infrastructure and 1.8 per cent for general operations.

However, Coun. Brian Quiring is concerned that there may not be sufficient money to meet the needs of the RCMP and other departments.

“I don’t want to see a whole list of service cuts to make 1.8 per cent,” he said.

Will Pearce, chief administrative officer, urged council not to deviate from the proposal yet.

“It gives administration a reasonable shot to bring in a reasonable budget for council’s consideration,” he said.

Quiring’s comments also led Coun. Scott Anderson to point out that economic conditions remain difficult for some residents.

“Now is not the time to increase taxes. China is not doing well,” he said of global markets.