Police deficit $1.8M higher than expected for 2017

Ottawa city councillors always anticipated Ottawa police would run a deficit in 2017, but Wednesday evening they learned that deficit grew by an extra $1.8 million in the final three months of the year.

Overall police deficit pushed to $3.4M

Ottawa police chief Charles Bordeleau says the service was able to find savings to limit the size of the 2017 deficit (Marc-André Cossette/CBC)

Ottawa city councillors always anticipated Ottawa police would run a deficit in 2017, but now they're being told the deficit grew by an extra $1.8 million in the final three months of the year.

A report published Wednesday evening by Ottawa police chief Charles Bordeleau details how an original deficit forecast of $1.6 million for the budget year 2017 has ballooned to $3.4 million.

While the City of Ottawa's fiscal year ended December 31, 2017, city departments — including Ottawa police — still need several weeks to tabulate all the expenses and revenues.

Topping the list of higher than anticipated expenses in 2017 were legal fees, claims, settlements, and premiums related to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, and Long-Term Disability Insurance, which caused overspending of $1.7 million.

The other notable expense is overtime, where police overspent in 2017 by $1.1 million.

Revenue shortfall also to blame

The deficit however is not only the result of overspending, but also a result of a shortfall in revenues, mainly from lower than expected sales of collision reports.

Insurance companies and individuals can receive, for a fee, a copy of various elements of a collision report prepared by police. The costs of reports vary from $48 for a Ministry of Transportation of Ontario collision report to $3,348 for a crash reconstruction report.

Ottawa police had forecast that 55 per cent of reports would be sold in 2017. However, only 15 per cent were sold, causing a revenue shortfall of $1 million.

Other shortfalls came from fewer residents requesting express same-day background checks and fewer responses by officers to false alarms.

60 vehicles not replaced as planned

While the total amount overspent for Ottawa police operations is $6.75 million, the service was able to find savings to limit the size of the 2017 deficit.

Police saved $2.4 million from delaying the replacement of approximately 60 vehicles, though Bordeleau acknowledges in his report that this decision risks increasing fleet maintenance costs in 2018, and will likely mean the vehicles will fetch less on the used market when they're eventually sold. 

Another $1.7 million was saved by issuing an order back in May to freeze discretionary spending by managers, instructing them to focus spending on material and services that link directly to the health and safety of employees, and critical operations.

Bordeleau is scheduled to formally table his fiscal update on March 26 at the police board meeting.