Policing Barrie is once again poised to be a large expense in this year’s city operating budget.
The Barrie Police Services Board is asking for 7.28 per cent more, or a $4.29-million hike to its 2023 budget.
This year’s city funding for the police is pegged at $63.24 million, an increase from $58.95 million last year.
But Coun. Sergio Morales, Barrie’s longest-serving city councillor, said this year and this police budget are unique.
“Comparing any budgets vis-a-vis to previous years doesn't work this year due to inflation,” he said.
Inflation slowed to 6.3 per cent in mid-January, according to Statistics Canada, but that was its lowest rate since February 2022.
“I’ll be meeting with the Police Chief (Rich Johnston) and waiting with interest for his presentation to city council (on Feb. 1) to see how we can address budget increase concerns," Morales said.
And one concern is how this year’s police budget impacts the property taxes paid by Barrie homeowners. They face a 3.95 per cent property tax hike at this stage in the city’s 2023 operating and capital budget process. This would mean $182 more for a typical Barrie home assessed at $365,040 — which had taxes last year of $4,612.
Adding $182 would make this year’s property taxes on that home $4,794. This breaks down to $2,694 or 56 per cent for city services, $1,541 or 32 per cent for the city’s service partners (police, County of Simcoe and Barrie Public Library), and $559 or 12 per cent for education.
And the Barrie police share of the $4,794 is $946, according to city budget numbers. The next highest numbers for city services are Barrie Fire and Emergency Service at $433 and $409 for the County of Simcoe, which supplies land ambulances and paramedics, health and emergency services, Ontario Works, children’s services, social housing, long-term care, seniors services, and community services, which includes addressing homelessness, to the city.
BarrieToday attempted to contact Greg Ferguson, chairman of the city's police services board, about the 2023 police budget and received this comment from him by email through the police force's corporate communications department.
“The 2023 Barrie Police Service budget has not yet been presented to council for their consideration,” Ferguson said. “It would not be appropriate to speak to it at this time.”
The 12-page police budget presentation for 2023 has been available on the City of Barrie’s website since Thursday, Jan. 26.
Peter Leon, corporate communications co-ordinator for city police, said questions from BarrieToday about the 2023 police budget could be answered after it was presented to council.
When the 2023 draft budget was presented to the police board last October, outgoing police chief Kimberley Greenwood cited a number of reasons for the increase — inflation, a 15 per cent increase to long-term disability premiums, an estimated 8.2 per cent more for Canada Pension Plan (CPP) premiums, an estimated 7.2 per cent hike to employment insurance (EI) premiums, an estimated 3.0 per cent increase to health and dental premiums, and a confirmed 5.1 per cent to life insurance premiums. There are also contractual salary increases for police coming in January and in July, she said.
Police are asking for four more civilian employees this year and five new sworn officers, bringing those totals to 125 and 250 respectively.
Police spending is traditionally the largest segment of Barrie’s annual operating budget. It was 21.8 per cent last year, 22.2 per cent in 2021.
The police board approved its draft 2023 budget last October, but its operating and capital budget requires approval from Barrie city council.
The police budget will be presented to city council at its Feb. 1 meeting, likely discussed by Barrie councillors at their Feb. 8-9 budget deliberations and considered for final approval by city council, as part of the 2023 operating and capital budget, at its Feb. 15 meeting.