Should Hamilton police get a 5.25 per cent budget increase? A police services board member is holding a website poll with that very question.
Coun. Terry Whitehead, who represents the city on the board, is trying to gauge public opinion with the electronic poll.
Whitehead said he's been “inundated” with calls and emails from people who don't want to grant Hamilton Police Service a $7.1-million budget increase for 2013. But that could be a vocal minority.
“Maybe there's another group out there supportive of the budget. I can't tell,” he said.
Chief Glenn De Caire presented the service's latest budget proposal at a meeting Nov. 27. The budget would see the hiring of 20 new officers, who are necessary to maintain the current level of service, De Caire said.
Trimming the budget would result in reduced services, such as fewer hours of operation at the Mountain and east-end stations and the elimination of 20 positions, he said.
“The decision that will have to be made is on Jan. 1 — what do we do?” De Caire said on Nov. 27. “At this point, with this budget not being approved, our position is those 20 job functions will cease to exist within our service.”
But Whitehead has issues with the increase “in the context of current times and the suffering that's taken place,” he said.
City departments have had to meet tight budget targets over the last few years.
“The police services budget continues to be above those targets and it's not sustainable.”
The budget will go back to the police services board at an upcoming meeting. After board approval, it must be approved by council.
Coun. Robert Pasuta, who represents Ward 14, told CBC Hamilton on Monday that he would vote down the budget in its current state.
He's heard from constituents too, he said.
“I've had some say keep (the increase) at zero,” he said. “I've had some say give them less than zero. I've had about 30 constituents send phone calls and emails, and dozens more in the community.”
De Caire will make a presentation to city council on Jan. 24.
If council rejects the budget, it goes back to the board, which can decide whether to appeal to the Ontario Civilian Police Commission. If the board appeals, arguments are presented and the commission rules.