Ottawa

Ottawa police draft budget calls for 2.9% increase

The Ottawa Police Service has tabled its draft budget for 2022 asking for a 2.86 per cent tax increase — a move sure to disappoint activists calling for police budgets to be frozen or even reduced.

Police board chair Coun. Diane Deans says that number will likely change

Ottawa police Chief Peter Sloly says freezing the police budget would not allow the force to invest in changes needed nor would it allow it to meet obligations under the Police Services Act. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

The Ottawa Police Service has tabled its draft budget for 2022 asking for a 2.86 per cent tax increase — a move sure to disappoint activists calling for police budgets to be frozen or even reduced.

The budget calls for an additional $14 million for a total operating budget of $346.5 million, as well as $23 million for capital costs.

"The 2022 budget process has been the number one priority for the Ottawa Police Service over the last 12 months," Chief Peter Sloly told the Ottawa Police Services Board on Tuesday morning. "This has been the longest, most intense and most in-depth budget process to date."

The chief acknowledged the community wants changes in policing, which he says he supports. But, he said, freezing the police budget would not allow the service to invest in changes needed nor would it allow Ottawa police to meet its obligations under the Police Services Act.

Coun. Diane Deans, who chairs the police services board, made it very clear the board won't simply accept the police request for an additional $14 million.

"The service request is 2.86 per cent for 2022 — that's their starting number," Deans told reporters after the tabling of the budget. "That is not, in all probability, the percentage increase at the end of the process that the board will approve. But that remains to be seen. We obviously have a lot of work to do."

Many community groups want the Ottawa police budget frozen, which were key calls during protests after an officer was acquitted in the death of Abdirahman Abdi. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

No new additions to workforce

The budget states maintaining the current size of the police service will cost another $14.9 million.

Compensation causes most of the financial pressure, which is decided through collective agreements. Paying the existing staff will cost an additional $11.9 million. The police service will not add any additional staff in 2022, foregoing the 30 new officers it planned to hire.

The additional $2.8 million is needed to cover increasing cots of items like health and dental services, and increased fuel costs.

Police also want $5.2 million to invest in new services to help change the internal culture, pay for a new mental health program for officers, and to create a new call referral system that would redirect 911 calls to more appropriate social services when warranted.

"We must make investments to improve how the Ottawa Police Service delivers services, particularly to the most racialized, marginalized and disenfranchised community members," Sloly told the board.

At the same time, police say they found $5.1 million in administrative savings, and expect an additional $800,000 from user fees.

That brings the total ask from Ottawa police to an additional $14 million in 2022.

Peter Sloly, right, is seen with the chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board, Diane Deans. The service wants a budget increase of about 2.9 per cent.

A little more than $5 million will come from the expected 1.7 per cent growth in the city, while the remaining $8.8 million will come from the property tax base, which translates to a 2.86 per cent increase to the tax rate.

An urban homeowner, based on a home assessed at $415,000, can expect to pay about $663 — a $19 increase — in 2022.

Deans said board members will go through the budget line by line to try to find further savings.

The public can speak about the police budget at the finance and audit committee on Nov. 9, and again when the entire board considers the budget on Nov. 22. 

Advocacy group not surprised by proposed increase

Robin Browne, from the advocacy group 613/819 Black Hub, said he wasn't surprised by the proposed increase. 

"They always get increases, so that's what they would expect to get," he told CBC News.

Browne said the board had a flawed methodology from the start. The Ottawa Police Service received board approval to develop a budget with a zero per cent increase for 2022 as its base. 

"But what the board did, though – and this was the problem – was that the board said, 'start with an assumption you will get nothing and you're only going to get more if you give us a detailed justification,'" Browne said. 

"And right from the beginning, we and other people complained that was a big loophole that the OPS could jump through."

He said 613/819 Black Hub will continue advocating for the police to receive no increase, including at the upcoming meetings this month.

"We'll still be continuing our pushing to have a complete freeze and give the OPS no increase at all this year." 

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