LETTER: Courtenay mayor responds to inaccuracies within recent letter

Dear editor,

A letter to the editor in the July 4 issue of the Comox Valley Record referencing the City of Courtenay requires some clarification.

A letter from Brennan Day, Stats contradict mayor’s contention that Courtenay is safe, contained multiple inaccuracies about Courtenay’s policing budget.

Mr. Day incorrectly states that Courtenay’s policing budget was $10 million, and that only $8.9 million was spent.

Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells

This $10 million Protective Services budget includes all protective services in the City of Courtenay. This includes fire protection, bylaw enforcement, animal control, emergency measures, building inspection, and amortization expenses related to capital assets, as well as the City’s share of expenses related to providing police protection to the Comox Valley.

The bulk of Courtenay’s contribution to the RCMP through our policing contract is for contracted services: in other words, directly funding up to 31.4 members of the Comox Valley RCMP. The City’s policing budget also includes general policing services such as prison guards and administrative support staff, as well as funding for parking enforcement, the City of Courtenay Drug Strategy Committee, and Citizens on Patrol.

The 2018 overall budget for police protection was $6,439,900. Actual 2018 spending for police protection was $5,970,521, a surplus of $469,379 – not $1.1 million as claimed in Mr. Day’s letter.

The majority of the surplus at the end of 2018 was due to member vacancies at the RCMP. While these vacancies are outside the City’s control, we appreciate this is a challenge faced by RCMP detachments across the country.

Mr. Day also incorrectly claimed that the entire policing surplus went back into general revenue, and that in addition to this, the City reduced the protective services reserve by $200,000.

In fact, the City budgets $200,000 from the Police Contingency Reserve each year to assist with funding the policing contract, as well as provide an additional source of funding in the event of major crime investigations. If staff vacancies occur, the City sets aside up to $250,000 each year until the reserve caps at $750,000. In 2018 the City did not need to use the $200,000 budgeted and set an additional $210,000 aside in the reserve, bringing the balance up to $560,000 at the end of 2018.

The City’s Financial Services team consists of highly competent, fiscally responsible staff, held to rigorous legislative and industry accounting standards, with comprehensive oversight provided through annual independent audits. I therefore find Mr. Day’s choice of words in his letter unfortunate. Any resident looking for information about the City’s budget is invited to visit www.courtenay.ca/financialplan where a user-friendly Financial Plan document helps make these complex budget figures more accessible.

As for public safety, I stand by my words that Courtenay is overall a safe community, but agree with Mr. Day when he notes the steadily increasing burden on policing in Courtenay. This is a growing community and region, and our policing must keep pace with this growth and the additional pressures that can accompany it.

What I would also point out is that by several measures, contributions toward regional policing by City of Courtenay taxpayers are already significantly higher than other jurisdictions in the region, and this disparity has increased over the past decade.

· Courtenay pays 90 per cent of policing costs due to our population size, vs. 70 per cent or less for other smaller or rural jurisdictions in the region.

· Courtenay also funds more RCMP members per capita than other funding partners in the region. (roughly 50 per cent more RCMP members per capita)

· As of 2018, Courtenay’s research indicated that the City’s per capita policing budget was significantly higher than other funding partners in the region. By our estimate, nearly double.

· Courtenay has increased our member strength by five since 2008. This is, again, a significantly higher increase than the detachment’s other funding partners.

While gaming revenue helps offset some of these costs by funding two RCMP members each year, and traffic fine revenues provide additional funding, the balance is funded from general tax revenue.

We appreciate our excellent relationship with the RCMP and everything they do to support and protect the Comox Valley, and we will continue working together to support our shared goal of a safe and healthy community.

If you have questions about services or activities in the City of Courtenay, you’re welcome to contact us: email info@courtenay.ca or check out our website at www.courtenay.ca

Sincerely,

Mayor Bob Wells

City of Courtenay

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