'Disjointed' RCMP funding formula irritates mayor of Courtenay
Courtenay Mayor Larry Jangula is none too pleased with what he calls a "disjointed" RCMP funding formula that downloads nearly $5 million onto municipal taxpayers.
For Courtenay and other communities with populations exceeding 15,000, municipalities fund 90 per cent of a policing budget while the federal government kicks in 10 per cent of costs. The municipal/federal split is 70/30 for populations between 5,000 and 15,000 people.
At Monday's committee of the whole meeting, RCMP officials presented a proposed budget that has Courtenay forking out more than $4.9 million in direct and indirect costs. By contrast, the federal government pays $550,000.
"This is a huge impact to us," said Jangula, a former police officer who recalls the federal government used to contribute significantly higher amounts to municipal RCMP budgets.
While costs are downloaded onto Courtenay taxpayers, Jangula is irked that council is not involved in policing budget negotiations.
"That leaves a bad taste in the mouth," he said.
Coun. Jon Ambler is also irked by the fact that roughly 25,000 of the Valley's 65,000 residents are funding most of the RCMP's salaries and detachment expenses.
"That sticks in our craw," Ambler said.
He is, however, happy with the local police service in terms of feeling safe in the community.
Coun. Doug Hillian is also pleased with the local police force but would like to see budgetary inequities rectified.
"It is a challenge," said Brad Lanthier of the RCMP's finance division, who suggests council could raise the issue through the Union of B.C. Municipalities.
The 2014/15 police budget is 4.6 per cent higher than the previous fiscal year, mostly due to an additional member. The local police force is expected to increase from 30.4 to 31.4 members. Most are constables, whose salaries range from $49,000 to $80,000. Corporals make $85,000 to $88,000 a year, and sergeants earn $93,000 to $96,000.
Staff Sgt. Roger Plamondon said the number of calls to police have decreased from about 20,000 five years ago to the 15,000-level in the past two or three years. He feels a crime reduction strategy has helped. Demographics — i.e., an aging population — has also contributed to a fewer number of calls from the public, he added.