Chief Troy Cooper, Board of Police Commissioners chairperson Darlene Brander and vice-chair Carolanne Inglis-McQuay presented the police budget for next year and spoke to the need for extra funding on Wednesday, the first day of city budget deliberations for next year.
Brander told Mayor Charlie Clark and the 10 councillors the new amount stems from a collective bargaining agreement reached between the board and the Saskatoon Police Association, which represents officers.
The terms of the deal bind the SPS to increase salaries by 1.6 per cent increase and to hire five special constables — civilian officers — to free up sergeants for police duties.
Council’s approval of the measure would raise the total city funds allotted to the SPS to $104,496,200 — about 20 per cent of the city’s total budget.
Inglis-McQuay presented charts showing the SPS’ funding percentage mirrors the city’s crime severity index score — a measure of the types of crimes that take place in Saskatoon.
Other charts showed assaults, sexual violations and crystal meth use and trafficking have been increasing in recent years.
Another showed the per capita ratio of SPS personnel to the general population of Saskatoon was in between that of Regina and Winnipeg
Cooper said money already allocated to the police next year will go towards creating two more PACTs (Police And Crisis Teams), which respond to mental health calls in the city. It will bring the total number of teams to four.
Council heard the presentation but won’t vote on any changes until Thursday, which is the last day deliberations are scheduled.
Councillors will still go through every item but the two-budget system means the numbers are already set. In order to change the numbers, a councillor’s proposal to alter a budget item must first pass a council vote to be accepted for debate and then pass another vote to be enacted into law.
Chief Financial Officer Kerry Tarasoff said administrators chose the format so councillors would be able to assess the impacts of any changes on the proposed tax rate increase all at once.
The previous council decided to use a two-year budget to make the city’s finances more transparent and predictable — especially with regards to the 3.87 per cent property tax increase.
But those numbers were set before the COVID-19, pandemic, which dramatically changed the city’s finances.
At one point, city administrators were reporting a $40 million dollar deficit.
The latest estimate cuts that figure in half, but provincial legislation requires cities to run balanced budgets.
The federal and provincial governments have offered nearly $55 million dollars in total support, some of which the administration has already designated to backfill the coffers.
Whether or not all of that money is used is up to council.