Hamilton police budget finalized with a 3.52-per cent increase

It's official: Hamilton Police Service will move ahead with a budget that meets council's target. But not everyone is happy with the compromise.

Chief says his budget saves hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs

Chief Glenn De Caire presents an amended 2013 budget to the police services board on Monday. The budget was amended after city council would only accept an increase of 3.52 per cent over the year before. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

It's official: Hamilton Police Service will move ahead with a budget that is a 3.52-per cent increase over last year.

But the end of the five-month stalemate doesn't satisfy everyone on the Hamilton's police services board.

Hamilton's police services board approved the 2013 budget after a tense debate Monday afternoon. The vote spares a trip to the Ontario Civilian Police Commission for arbitration, a move that would have cost taxpayers about $300,000 just for police lawyers alone, police chief Glenn De Caire said.

"We remain committed to spending public dollars on policing and not on legal costs," De Caire told the board.

The police budget has been contentious since De Caire presented a budget that represented a more than five per cent increase over last year.

The budget went before city council for approval as a 3.71-per cent increase over 2012. Councillors rejected it and passed a motion asking for a 3.52 per cent, which could have sent it to binding arbitration. The percentage represents a difference of $261,000 on a budget of about $139 million.

Councillors wanted De Caire's team to eliminate a planned hire of 20 new officers and one new civilian staff member. The final version proposed 15 new officers and one civilian staff member.

Those officers will go "directly to the front line where their presence will be felt," the chief said.

Coun. Terry Whitehead wasn't satisfied. The budget still contains too many "legacy costs" — including the salaries of the 15 new officers — that taxpayers will have to deal with next year.

With this process, "the line was drawn and there was no room for compromise," he said.

"This puts additional burden in 2014 on the taxpayers of this community, one that may be over four per cent."

Coun. Bernie Morelli, who also voted against the budget, deemed the process "a failure" because it doesn't satisfy the needs of the city or the police service.

"We have failed. I accept responsibility for that failure," he said.

"There are a number of ways to skin a cat and we haven't found a way to satisfy both sides of the equation, and therefore, we have failed."

But De Caire told reporters after the meeting that he doesn't see it as a failure.

"This budget is providing us the ability to provide excellence in service for the entire community, so this is a success," he said.

Three of the five board members — Mayor Bob Bratina, chair Nancy DiGregorio and Irene Stayshyn — voted in favour of the budget.

"The chief has presented a sound business case supported by extensive data," DiGregorio said. "We as a board should be proud of our process."

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