Jumping 8.23 per cent, the Prince Albert Police Service budget is contributing one of the largest increases among city departments in this year’s proposed budget.
The day before he was scheduled to walk the city’s elected officials through the proposed budget at Friday’s all-day budget committee meeting, Chief Troy Cooper took the time to summarize things for the Daily Herald.
The budget’s biggest component, representing 88.69 per cent of expenditures, is salaries, wages and benefits.
“What we have is people -- that’s what our industry is, so not surprisingly, that is what our costs are associated with,” Cooper explained, adding that this is the same thing one would see with any other police department.
Currently without a collective agreement, the $1.54 million jump in salaries, wages and benefits represents their “best guess based on other agencies of similar size,” he explained.
“We try to benchmark ourselves against similar-sized services, and other services in Saskatchewan.”
The $145,850 balance of the department’s budgeted expenditure increase is intended mainly to remain “status quo,” Cooper explained.
A casual janitorial support is being requested to help meet the demands of the department. Having doubled their staff and expanding janitorial duties over the years, it’s time the department moves beyond a single janitorial position, he said.
One vehicle is being added to the department’s fleet, as per a contractual agreement, and software support licensing fees are going up due to a jump in costs, Cooper explained. Legal fees are also going up in hopes of “more accurately reflecting what we’re going to need.”
One $16,000 increase to the budget represents the expansion of a seasonal summer bylaw officer position to full time, “so that we can have that person working longer -- earlier in the spring and later in the fall -- and transition into some other proactive crime prevention (work) when they can’t be going out doing foot patrols,” Cooper said.
What we have is people -- that’s what our industry is, so not surprisingly, that is what our costs are associated with. - Prince Albert Police Service Chief Troy Cooper
This bylaw officer will continue to work in the city’s downtown core, with the position’s full-time upgrade a response to a pilot program’s success over the past two years, Cooper said.
“We know that it drives down crime,” he said. “We know that in the two years that we had someone down there we’ve reduced shoplifting by 50 per cent -- it’s a comfort level for people who are downtown and shopping.
“The downtown, we know is responsible for the reputation of our city, and we know that there’s 1/3 of the businesses in our city within those few blocks, so it’s important for us to be there.”
Although a $597,490 revenue increase is projected to pay for about 1/3 of this year’s $1.69-million expenditure increase, the final budget will still see a 8.23 per cent increase over last year’s, representing a $14.15 million cost to city taxpayers.
Had last year’s salaries, wages and benefits been frozen at last year’s level, this year’s police budget would have seen a 3.57 per cent decrease.
The Prince Albert Fire Department is also reporting a significant budget increase in this year’s proposed budget, going up 16.19 per cent this year to $6.17 million. Of the proposed increase, 99.77 per cent reflects things like wages so the city can maintain operations without affecting service levels.
The city’s elected officials will respond to Cooper’s budget summary presentation and all other city expenditures during a daylong budget meeting on Friday -- a meeting the Daily Herald will report on for Saturday’s edition.
If necessary, council might opt to extend the meeting through Saturday, recommencing at 9 a.m. if they’re unable to come to a budgetary conclusion by 5 p.m. on Friday.