Picking up a share of policing costs will go toward boosting service, the Alberta government is telling rural and small municipalities.
The province has proposed counties, municipal districts and communities under 5,000 people, which don’t now pay for policing, be required to pick up a share of costs.
Municipalities were told they could be required to pay anywhere from 15 to 70 per cent of policing expenses.
Among the most alarming parts of the plan, to some municipalities, was their financial contributions would not mean more police resources and better service, the government suggested.
That position appears to be changing, Lacombe County manager Tim Timmons told council this week.
It is being proposed municipalities’ contributions to policing would go toward “extra boots on the ground,” rather than paying for part of the existing service, said Timmons, who cautioned police funding remains under review and no decisions have been made.
The prospect of using tax dollars for policing, with no guarantee of improved service, did not sit well with county council, whose members expressed their concerns in a meeting with Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr last month.
“How do you look (taxpayers) in the eye and say you’ve been broken into eight times, or (thieves) were on your property eight times, and there’s absolutely no increased (police) service?” Lacombe County Reeve Paula Law asked Orr at the meeting.
Law said she has since heard from several ratepayers who also questioned why they should have some of their tax dollars going to policing with no changes to service.
“It’s difficult asking them to pay for something when they’re not going to get additional services,” she said Thursday. “Being asked to pay for something that you may or may not be seeing is tough.”
Lacombe County was also encouraged the province appears, when deciding what share of policing costs municipalities must pay, to be willing to take into account money they are already voluntarily spending to enhance law enforcement.
Red Deer and Lacombe counties agreed to each fund an RCMP general investigation section officer — at a cost of about $160,000 each a year — to focus on rural crime and co-ordinate with central Alberta detachments.
Ponoka County has also undertaken a similar initiative.
It appeared initially, those financial commitments were not going to be recognized in policing funding formulas. That, too, seems to have changed.
“The fact they are going to take into account what the municipalities are currently paying is different than what was first brought out,” she said.
“Definitely, we want that taken into consideration.”