The London Police Services Board will be looking to talk to the Ontario Association of Police Services Boards as a first step to address funding changes by the provincial government.
According to a report presented at Thursday’s meeting of the London Police Services Board, the service is facing a $638,000 shortfall, or roughly 25 per cent less than expected in provincial funding, because the government is restructuring how it doles out grant money.
The report says three grant programs have been eliminated and replaced with a new grant, dubbed the Community Safety and Policing grant.
While the overall amount of provincial funding is roughly the same, Deputy Chief Daryl Longworth said the OPP is able to apply for the new grant, resulting in less available for local forces.
“In speaking with police leaders across the province, every single organization seems to experience around that same 25 per cent marker,” said Longworth.
“I can only guess that all that money’s been pooled and made available in the big pot, that now the OPP now has funding available to them as well.”
Mayor Ed Holder suggested that London police might have to take a hard look at its budget.
“The most significant part of our budget is our staffing, but the other part of it is: maybe there are some things we don’t need to do,” Holder said. “I certainly would not consider myself an expert in this, but it strikes me that sometimes there’s that ‘absolutely have-to’ list and then there’s the ‘serious, would-like-to, want-to’ list.”
Longworth, meanwhile, stated that while he understands provincial fiscal constraints, the police budget is strained as is and the scope of police work has expanded.
“Unfortunately, at 2 o’clock in the morning, we’re the only game in town a lot of times and when we’re faced with mental issues, when we’re faced with homelessness, when we’re faced with a lot of these things that wouldn’t traditionally fall under law enforcement,” he explained, “we have to deal with them, because we’re talking about members of this community who have an expectation, or a right, to be looked after.”
Vice-chair of the board Susan Toth, meanwhile, called the provincial cuts short-sighted.
“I don’t actually think any of this is going to go anywhere near to helping balance the budget,” Toth said. “If anything, I think it’s going to increase costs.”
The funding formula itself was also called into question, with Chief John Pare noting that some other provinces have federal, provincial, and then municipal funding.
“One of the positions I think we need to look at is: what is the proper funding — whether it be federal funding for all municipal police services across Canada — what is the provincial contribution to that funding, and then what is the municipal funding?” he explained.
“That’s where there’s real change in what needs to be done around the funding. It always falls to the local taxpayer; there’s no federal money. Years ago we had some funding and that was eliminated, there has never been any more. But I think we need to look at, overall, what is the proper funding model?”
Board members voted to first address the issues with the Ontario Association of Police Services Boards. Councillor and board member Jesse Helmer put forward the motion, suggesting that the discussion should be province-wide as other local forces are also similarly impacted.
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