Red Deer city council is calling on the provincial and federal governments to step up and pay their share of policing costs.
The federal government is being urged to pay for the retroactive raise it negotiated with the RCMP union.
Councillors are also calling on the provincial government to increase an annual policing grant for municipalities which has been so stagnant it no longer covers the cost of three officers, as intended, but now only pays for two officers.
These two advocacy items were approved by council on Monday.
The retroactive pay increase is part of a new six-year contract Ottawa made with the new RCMP union and goes back to 2016.
Council heard that while the City of Red Deer was “prudently” putting aside additional funds every year for an expected annual increase in policing costs, this was not enough to cover this latest RCMP pay raise, which factors in cost of living increases.
But the City of Red Deer is still facing a shortfall, said Red Deer’s emergency services chief Ken McMullen.
The one-time expense for retroactive pay for 2017 to 2020 is approximately $5.4 million. The City anticipated an increase in policing costs since 2017 and set aside $4.3 million. This leaves The City with a $1.1 million shortfall for those years.
For 2021, there will be a shortfall of $1.6 million to cover the retroactive pay. The total budgetary gap regarding RCMP retroactive pay, which will come during budget this fall is $2.7 million.
The City will also need to account for approximately $690,000 to cover RCMP pay increases starting in the 2022 budget.
“Right now, The City of Red Deer is not in a position to find more than $5 million for retroactive pay in our current approved budget,” said Mayor Tara Veer.
“It will be difficult to incorporate the additional $690,000 each year into future budgets without impacting property taxes or budgets in other areas,” added the mayor, who noted that’s why “we need support from the other orders of government to minimize the direct impact to our citizens.”
Several councillors stated that municipalities were not at the bargaining table, so why should they have to pay this cost difference?
Council affirmed the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association’s position that the federal government is responsible for the one-time payment of costs associated with retroactive pay for RCMP regular members and reservists resulting from the collectively bargained agreement signed on Aug. 6.
Veer noted that the provincial government is also not living up to its obligations to help fund policing costs. She noted the $200,000 grant given by the province to fund three policing positions has never increased.
The “eroded” funds now only pay for two policing positions, said Veer, since a starting officer’s salary has risen from about $86,160 in 2018 to $106,000 in 2021.
Veer said this matter was recently raised with Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu, who did not comment on the situation.
Coun. Vesna Higham said the federal election this fall is the perfect opportunity for central Albertans to make their feelings known about these costs behind foisted on municipalities. She noted cities and towns have far fewer revenue streams than the two higher orders of government.
Coun. Lawrence Lee hopes local taxpayers will make their feelings known to both levels of government.