Candidates respond: Police Budget
All candidates for Aylmer mayor, deputy mayor and councillors were submitted the same six questions by the Aylmer Express. The three candidates for mayor are Jack Couckuyt, Greg Currie and Bob Habkirk. The three candidates for deputy mayor are Doug Avram, Mary French and Gerry Richer. The nine candidates for coucnillors (five to be elected) are Sheri Andrews, Pete Barbour, David LaPointe, Barbara Ann Laur, Ted McDonald, Bill Murch, Arthur Oslach, John Vandermeersch and Judi Wright. Here are unedited answers to one of the questions in order of candidate:
If police wages, salaries and benefits make up the overwhelming percentage of the police budget, should anything be done to reduce staffing or pay?
Couckuyt: It is time to look at all options to see the numbers. Less service will equal less costs. Partnership options and OPP options must be looked at again, so that valid comparisons may be made.
Currie: With mandated adequacy standards dictated by the province, efficiencies within the existing police structure need to be found. In addition, a longer term resolution must be found by looking at the type of policing our citizens want at affordable rates.
Habkirk: There are pretty stringent rules set out in legislation and the (OCPC) ocpc.ca for their mission statement, on how Police Services are run, funded and staffed. The pay issue is a combination of a poor arbitration system that completely overlooks the ability to pay and unfortunately some very generous negotiated contracts that were used as comparisons in contract talks. There is a Province wide movement to correct this through changes to the arbitration system and more cooperation by all involved. There are pretty stringent rules set out in legislation and the(OCPC) ocpc.ca for their mission statement, on how Police Services are run, funded and staffed. The pay issue is a combination of a poor arbitration system that completely overlooks the ability to pay and unfortunately some very generous negotiated contracts that were used as comparisons in contract talks. There is a Province wide movement to correct this through changes to the arbitration system and more cooperation by all involved.
Avram: This is a concern throughout Ontario but it is not up to council to determine staff reduction or pay.
French: Reducing police staff is not an option due to safety issues. However, when senior officers retire, they will be replaced by junior officers at a lower pay rate.
Richer: The whole issue revolving around the aylmers police relative to staffing/pay is an issue within the jurisdiction of the Police Services board in conjunction with both the municipality and the Ontario government. Its common knowledge that the polices services budget amounts to about 85% salaries with the balance being operational costs. So if the future council wishes to pursue the police services/service levels, this would require a critical review of the entire police program. In relation to Aylmer’s over all budget, the police servicing budget has risen progressively to a point close to 47% of Aylmers operating budget. The past several councils, certainly since 2004 have always expressed a warning flag to the effect of having a police budget account for 50% of the towns operating budget. This would be considered unsustainable from a management/financial perspective.
Andrews: The police budget could be challenged as there is always room to reduce spending, but we cannot compromise the safety of our community in doing so. I feel this issue needs to be scrutinized and objectively reviewed to determine if any changes could be made.
Barbour: It is my understanding that the Police Services Board has the authority to set their budget, Council input is considered to but is not binding Polices wages are driven by the Ontario arbitration process, a department gets an increase for something and that becomes the standard for everyone. An officer in Aylmer performing the same function as an officer in Toronto is compensated to somewhat the same level. Aylmer Police officers are more versatile, are the risks the same? The Aylmer Police have been sensitive to the rising costs of police services. Staffing levels, once established, are very difficult to adjust downward.
LaPointe: Its very easy as a candidate to say your going to reduce staff at the police station but the facts cannot be disputed. The staffing of police for our community is driven by the Province. The province mandates minimum standards for the community and you must comply. The rules are clearly spelled out in the Police Service Act. I would encourage all candidates to read the Act.
Laur: The cost of policing is an issue not unique to Aylmer as indicated in a recent study conducted by Economics Professor, Livio DiMatteo of Lakehead University. He cites that the policing work load has declined while the cost of policing has risen beyond what is reasonable to support. It is the job of our elected officials to review all costs and services provided to our community in an effort to offer the best value for dollar. I believe the answers lie within the police department themselves to find operational savings and provide a more cost effective service. By working closely with all our services I know there are cost savings to be found.
McDonald: We complain about the cost of policing and are told that if we switch to the O.P.P. model then our service will go down. Does Malahide, Bayham or Dorchestor have a crime problem? We need to seriously look to join the over 60 communities in Ontario that have been forced to switch to the O.P.P. due to the costs of policing. The cost of Policing in Malahide is approximately $188 per person, the cost in Aylmer is in excess of $350.00 per person!
Murch: There is a general appreciation of Aylmer police services but efforts to reduce costs will affect officers and services. One way to avoid that is the town’s police service should take a hard look at providing policing in Malahide Township using the resources already in place.
Oslach: Through zero percent increase in the Police service Budget and through attrition. We have an excellent Police force; I am not in favor of the OPP. The Provincial Government has to step forward on Policing to help smaller communities like ours.
Vandermeersch: This is where only certain candidates can offer a true accounting of the staff levels at the police station; and that would be those of us who have actually been members of the PSB. We do not control either the civilian or the uniform staffing levels, contrary to popular belief. These levels are set by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission which is an independent oversight agency committed to serving the public by ensuring that adequate and effective policing services are provided to the community in a fair and accountable manner under the Ontario Police Services Act (this is their mission statement). So, if you read responses from other candidates who claim they will reduce staff levels at the police station I can state for a fact they won’t be able to do that, no matter how good they sound saying it. Facts don’t change just because you ignore them. We will and already have replaced senior retiring officers with junior officers at a lower pay grid.
Wright: Aylmer is not unique with our concerns re the cost of policing. Can we reduce police costs by looking at OPP, using non-police individuals to complete some of the required paper work, use more auxiliary officers in a low crime areas, etc.? It is important that we look carefully at all of the options that are available.