With a budget of $33.5 million, a five per cent increase of $1.6 million to the Saanich Police budget is too high, say local critics the Grumpy Taxpayers.
What’s more, Saanich Police’s proposed five per cent increase is a conservative calculation that is realistically an eight per cent increase when all costs are factored in, suggests Stan Bartlett, chair of the Grumpy Taxpayers.
The increase details costs for four additional officers and five civilians. However, it only factors the cost of the positions for six months of the year which misses what Bartlett says is another 1.3 per cent to the police budget for wages and benefits. Bartlett notes the proposal also excludes the provincial employer health tax, another 1.66 per cent that Saanich chooses to separate in its calculation.
“Our general concern is that the budget increases exceed inflation and often the city budget, and it’s unsustainable,” Bartlett said. “As a resident, I don’t recollect a five or eight per cent raise this year, do you? And yet this continues, it’s compound interest, and we have a problem on our hands.”
Saanich Police is adding to its staff of 161 officers and 60 civilians with five civilian positions, two of which are replacing positions lost in 2018 budget reductions, the assistant Block Watch coordinator and an administrative position.
Saanich Police spokesperson, Sgt. Jereme Leslie, said the employer health tax is separated and that it’s standard practice to cost six months of the wage.
As Bartlett pointed out, Saanich council struggles annually with its budget increase and to expect a Saanich Police budget increase of five per cent every year, let alone an eight per cent hike, is just silly, he said.
“They need to go back to the drawing board,” Bartlett said. “It’s not easy. All of these services are very important and this is a very difficult decision for council but somewhere there’s a middle ground, a compromise. We need some moderation and respect for the taxpayer.”