Police budget holds the line, but bigger tax bills coming

The Ottawa Police Service has managed to wrangle its 2018 budget to fit within a board-mandated two per cent tax increase, but Chief Charles Bordeleau warned taxpayers will pay for it in the long run.

2018 draft budget tabled Wednesday adds $12 to average tax bill

The 2018 police budget 'pushes some of the costs,' but still falls within an 'acceptable range,' Chief Charles Bordeleau said Wednesday. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The Ottawa Police Service has managed to wrangle its 2018 budget to fit within a board-mandated two per cent tax increase, but Chief Charles Bordeleau warned taxpayers will pay for it in the long run.

"It's a challenge at two per cent," Bordeleau said Wednesday. "So we've had to find a different way this year to achieve that two per cent."

It's a challenge at two per cent.- Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau

The Police Services Board tabled the draft budget for 2018 Wednesday morning. It  calls for an $8.5-million increase in operating costs, which translates into an extra $12 in taxes for the typical urban homeowner.

Bordeleau said his priority is to make sure service to the public doesn't suffer, even as police work becomes more complex.

But to achieve that in the short term, police project the tax increase for 2019 to 2021 will need to climb to between 3.5 per cent and 4.1 per cent, money that will be used to hire 90 new officers.

"It's pushing some of the costs out, but still within a very acceptable range," Bordeleau said.

$44.7M police facility

Police will also take on an additional $20 million in debt to finance a new $44.7-million police facility in south Ottawa — a far greater debt load than police usually take on.  

"Our approach is, pay for things as you have money in the bank," said Debra Frazer, director general of the Ottawa Police Service.

But that won't happen this year. While the police service will be using more debt than usual to pay for its new facility, Frazer said it's still within acceptable limits.

The 2018 budget seeks to plug some funding gaps that have pushed the service into deficit in past years, including overtime, workers' compensation and legal claims.

The budget also puts aside $500,000 to prepare for the police response to the legalization of cannabis by training staff and procuring new detection equipment.

The board and city councillors will dig deeper into the police budget with a question and answer session at a finance and audit committee meeting on Nov. 20.