Hamilton's police budget has been shaved for a third time, this time from a 3.9-per cent increase over last year to a 3.71-per cent increase.
What was a budget increase of $5,290,700 has been reduced to $5,034,830 after the police services board approved it Tuesday afternoon. The reduction stems from a change in the training scheduled for half of the 20 new officers Hamilton Police Service plans to hire this year, which is money that will have to be paid next year.
"I wouldn't characterize it as savings. I would characterize it as deferral," Chief Glenn De Caire said after Tuesday's meeting.
The Ontario Police College has cancelled a May session when 10 of the officers would have been trained. Instead, they'll all be trained later that year. That means the deferral of paying $1.12 million, money that will have to be found in the 2014 budget, De Caire said.
The initial budget was a 5.25-per cent increase, which was reduced to 4.75 per cent. At the board's urging, it decreased further to 3.9 per cent, which the board approved last month.
On Thursday, the chief will present the amended budget to city councillors, who have the power to reject it. If they reject it, it goes back to the board, which can decide whether to appeal to the Ontario Civilian Police Commission. If the board appeals, arguments are heard and the commission rules.
De Caire said he is confident that council will receive the budget as approved by the police services board.
"We will lay out the same sound business case that we have laid out particularly since November," he said.
"We'll let council do their job. Council has the authority of law to approve the budget or reject the budget. We're going to do our best to make sure that we focus on what we require to do the best job to ensure public safety in the city of Hamilton."
As for next year's budget, the service will deal with it when the time comes, De Caire said. It will depend on what unfolds in terms of crime patterns, as well as the result of collective bargaining this year, he said.
The board voted 4-2 in favour of the amended budget. Councillors Terry Whitehead and Bernie Morelli, vocal critics of a budget increase above three per cent, voted against it.
"I'm still not there," Morelli said.