The Barrie Police Service says it's exploring options to cover an anticipated $1.15-million deficit, largely stemming from un-budgeted pandemic-related costs.
It has also put a halt on discretionary spending for the rest of the year and imposed a spending cut-off on Aug. 31.
A financial variance report for the first half of the year presented to the police services board on Thursday indicated there have been significant expense and revenue variances for 2021, resulting in a deficit that amounts to 2.1 per cent of its budget for 2021.
“We did not specifically for 2021 have a budget set aside for COVID, so we are projecting to the end of the year our COVID supplies and operating expenditures to be targeted at $425,000,” Barrie Police Chief Kimberley Greenwood told BarrieToday.
According to the report, unexpected COVID-19 pandemic expenses incurred for the first half of the year amounted to just over $350,000. Ongoing costs related to personal protective equipment and related items is expected to result in a deficit of around $425,00 for 2021.
The police service is anticipating a further deficit of $156,000 related to a drop in revenue from criminal records checks, false-alarm calls and paid-duty administration fees, also as a result of the pandemic and changes in business practices.
Greenwood says she hopes those expenses will be covered by the city through the federal-provincial safe restart financial relief program, which is designed for municipalities, as were last year’s pandemic expenses, which totalled just over $250,000.
Increased expenses were incurred this year through additional software and hardware purchases supporting the Microsoft platform, allowing some people to work remotely, Greenwood added.
Several retirements this year, larger than anticipated, is also contributing to the deficit. Greenwood said money had been set aside for a retirement incentive program, of which 11 service members have accessed.
There were another 15 retirements by members not eligible for the incentive program. Only three had been budgeted, so the total time bank payouts exceeded what had been budgeted.
Greenwood said a secondment program, which allows service members to become involved in joint forces projects or instructing at the Ontario Police College, also ran a deficit this year.
The service is addressing some of those deficits, the chief added.
It is also exploring whether it can access provincial funding to help offset additional costs incurred when officers responded to this summer's EF2 tornado, which devastated a southeast Barrie neighbourhood on July 15. The actual cost to the city's police department hasn’t yet been fully calculated.
Greenwood said the police service imposed a spending cutoff at the end of August and a halt was put on discretionary spending as a result of the deficit.
“We’re reviewing our deployment model. ... And any other members from our service will not be replaced immediately,” she said.
The service also expects to dip into a $600,000 operating reserve to offset some of this year's additional costs.
Some savings were achieved by reduced overtime largely attributed to the pandemic. The budget allows for one per cent in overtime, accounting for major events such as the major propane fire on July 30 and the tornado two weeks earlier, as well as major crimes and court appearances.
Earlier this year, city council defeated a motion to cut 10 per cent of next year’s allocation of taxpayer dollars for policing.
The motion was presented as part of a wider police defunding movement, which is intended to allocate some policing costs toward mental health progams, addiction treatment and social services, while reframing the role of police.