Hamilton city councillors have put off voting on the police budget one more time to get more answers.
Councillors nearly sent back the Hamilton Police Service budget Thursday to the police services board, asking for a 3.52-per-cent increase over last year rather than the 3.71 per cent proposed.
But they deferred the decision to the first week of April to get more answers from police.
“This is just so infuriating,” said Coun. Judi Partridge during the budget meeting Thursday.
Councillors wanted clear answers on what percentage would constitute a “maintenance budget” — leaving services at the status quo without hiring the planned 20 more officers, or what a motion from Coun. Bernie Morelli called the "unsustainable use of reserves.”
The city asked on March 14 what percentage increase would constitute a maintenance budget, but has not yet received a response, said Mike Zegarac, interim head of finance. At one point during the meeting, councillors discussed taking a recess and calling police for an answer.
Coun. Brad Clark expressed frustration at the lack of information, saying he couldn't support any motion based on what he knew so far. He requested budget information for 2012, but when he got it, it only showed the amount budgeted, not the actual totals.
“How are we supposed to make a decision going forward when we haven't been given all the information?” he said.
The police services board dealt with council's request for information on Monday. A maintenance budget would be 3.62 per cent, Chief Glenn De Caire said. That would cover current collective agreement commitments and allow for 20 officers to be hired, but “does not mean maintenance in terms of service delivery standards and community expectations,” he told the board.
If council rejects the budget, it will go back to the police services board. It will either be modified or go to the Ontario Civilian Police Commission for arbitration.
Hamilton Police Service has already trimmed the budget three times. The first version proposed a 5.25-per cent increase. Subsequent cuts reduced it to 4.75 per cent, then to 3.9 per cent and 3.7 per cent.
The current draft budget shows an increase of $5,034,830 on a $140,219,590 budget.
The draft 2013 city budget shows a 3.3-per cent increase in the Hamilton Emergency Services budget, an increase of $3,123,540 on a $97,579,100 budget.
A Hamilton Police Service representative will be invited to the upcoming budget meeting to answer questions. That will likely be April 3 or 4.
Council will finalize the city budget on April 10.
The CBC's Samantha Craggs covered the council budget debate Thursday. Read her tweets from council here: