Town of Sylvan Lake has joined a call urging the province to change the way it funds policing.
The cost of keeping communities safe is shared between federal, provincial and municipal governments on a sliding scale tied to population size.
Sylvan Lake, with its population of 14,800, is on the threshold of a significant change in how policing costs are covered.
When the population crosses 15,000, municipalities must pay 90 per cent — up from 70 per cent — of policing costs, which are then partially paid back by the province through the Municipal Police Assistance Grant program. The federal government covers the remaining 10 per cent.
Sylvan Lake estimates its policing costs will increase from just over $2 million (with $415,000 covered by provincial grants) to just under $3 million (with $650,000 covered by grants).
Municipalities under 5,000, and municipal districts and counties have 100 per cent of policing costs covered by the province.
The problem say municipalities is that the provincial grants are not keeping up. Taking up the issue has been the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA). The organization, which represents all urban municipalities says in a report that ”there have been chronic shortfalls in funding as the (grant) program has not kept pace with growing populations and increasing crime rates …”
Alberta municipal policing expenditures increased 23 per cent from 2008 to 2016 while the provincial grant increased by just under 16 per cent.
Sylvan Lake communications officer Joanne Gaudet said the municipality has been preparing for a spike in policing costs.
“We have been budgeting accordingly so it’s not going be a shock to anybody,” she said.
“But I think it’s time for that kind of discussion to present itself as to how we can better allocate that kind of money.”
Against the backdrop of lagging police funding is a growing concern in Central Alberta about rising property crime rates.
“Security, safety, crime, it’s such a hot topic for anybody and it’s only going to keep increasing,” she said.
Town council voted on Monday to support the AUMA’s call for more equitable police funding by sending a letter to the Legislature.
The AUMA is calling its reforms the “everyone should pay” concept.
“This means using a funding formula based on population and property assessment, with any resulting surplus funds being used for crime prevention and response.”