Saint John Police seek $1.5M budget hike
Police Chief Bill Reid says the budget increase is needed because of rising salaries
The Saint John Police Force is looking for a 6.6 per cent increase in its budget and the bulk of the $1.5 million in new funds will be directed to salary hikes for 147 unionized officers.
Saint John Police Chief Bill Reid made a presentation to city council on Tuesday night and told councillors he has very little control over his budget.
Reid said salaries and other built-in policing costs mean there is no way he can cut his budget down to a zero or two per cent increase as city council has requested.
"But I don't have the real money you're talking about. I don't have it. I don't have it to take away. Non-discretionary is 90.9 per cent,” Reid said.
The discretionary portions of the police budget include patrol cars, gasoline and officer training.
After a two-year wage freeze, police officers recently signed a new deal that will give them a 12 per cent increase over three years.
The salary increases are retroactive to the beginning of last year. Under the terms of the deal, unionized officers in the city will receive an extra 4.5 per cent for 2013, 3.75 per cent in 2014 and 3.75 per cent in 2015.
Saint John Mayor Mel Norton said on Tuesday he knew the large budget request was coming from the police.
The mayor sits on the police commission that approved the new contract. What Norton said he doesn't know yet is what the increase will do to city finances.
"It is very difficult to understand how we would find that resource," he said.
Norton estimated that it would take a six-cent property tax increase to raise the funds for the police budget.
The new contract protects existing police officers from layoffs but the deal will allow reductions or the opportunity to convert some positions into civilian jobs in the future.
Saint John has been reviewing the spending of each of its departments. The city has asked what would happen if each department had its spending limited to a two-per-cent increase for inflation and what would happen if the budget was frozen.
The mayor started the process to give councillors a thorough understanding of the spending pressures in the city.
Norton also said in March the comprehensive review will almost certainly result in a shifting of funds and with some city services being cut.