Barrie Police Services adhered to city council’s request to keep its draft budget to a 1.95 per cent increase, bringing the proposed 2021 police budget to $56,901,324.
The city police department's entire draft operating budget will be $58,038,598, however about $5.9 million of that will be covered through grants, secondments and other revenue streams.
The budget was presented to the Barrie Police Services Board on Thursday morning, ahead of presenting it to city council later this fall.
However, police officials have also identified almost $5.4 million in challenges heading into 2021 due to a reduction in provincial grants and salary increases.
“This year, our budget process was one of the most open and transparent we have had in our history,” said Chief Kimberley Greenwood.
The Barrie police budget makes up approximately 20 per cent of the city's overall operating budget. The vast majority of the police budget ($52.4 million) goes to salaries, benefits and overtime pay. Officer ratios in Barrie run below both the provincial (177) and national (185) averages, at 157 officers per 100,000 population as of 2018.
“Since 2019, our provincial funding has been reduced by almost $1 million,” said Greenwood.
Technical upgrades account for around $2 million of the budget, which include $200,000 for radio-system improvements and $1.6 million for fleet, information technology supports, specialized equipment, and the body-camera pilot project.
Facility upgrades include salary and benefits for custodial staff, insurance, repairs, property maintenance and utilities, and tally in at a little over $1 million.
In June, Barrie city council asked the police to keep their budget increase to 1.95 per cent.
As part of public engagement, Barrie police put out a questionnaire to residents, which closed on Sept. 1, as well as had a public consultation meeting and asked for input via email. Approximately 600 responses were received to the questionnaire, there were four deputations given during the meeting and eight emails were received.
Questions were included on the importance of certain core services, specialty units and using civilians to fill non-emergency related positions.
The question pertaining to reducing the budget was: “When looking at the overall Barrie Police Service budget, what approach would you like to see the service take for 2021?”
According to the results, out of 624 responses, 156 said maintain budget and services, 40 said reduce budget, look for efficiencies and 36 said reduce the budget/cut services.
Coun. Keenan Aylwin, who has been vocal about reducing the Barrie police budget this year, took issue with the questionnaire results.
“It’s frustrating that the survey questions didn’t even acknowledge the demand from people in the community to reallocate a portion of the budget to other services, such as housing and mental health care,” Aylwin told BarrieToday.
“The framing of the question appears to be designed to elicit a certain response and is lacking in important context," he added. "I haven’t heard people in the community asking for a blanket cut to the police budget without reallocating that funding to crime prevention and social supports, but that’s what the question asks.”
Aylwin noted the city’s own online suggestion platform results paint a different picture of the public appetite for a shift in funding. He also shared disappointment that city council voted down an amendment in June to have the police also present a budget showing a reduction of 10 per cent.
“Hundreds of people signed in support of reducing the Barrie police budget by 10 per cent and reinvesting that money in the community,” he said. “To make good decisions we need information, but unfortunately we won’t have that information during budget deliberations.”