Councillors approve 2021 Hamilton police budget, reject reallocating surplus to community services

City council has approved the Hamilton Police Service's 2021 budget request, while rejecting a bid to redirect any year-end surplus to housing and social services. 900 CHML file photo

Hamilton police funding has prompted another heated debate.

City councillors have rejected Ward 3 Coun. Nrinder Nann’s bid to reallocate year-end surpluses from the Hamilton police service’s operating budget into community and social services.

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Coun. Nann tried to take a step towards fixing what she calls “broken structures” that force people in crisis “into the criminal system, when what they really need is help.”

Her motion, rejected by a vote of 12-2, would have directed any surplus police funding into a new Community Resilience Reserve Account for investments in housing and services that address homelessness, mental health and addictions services.

“Where I walk, people are visibly distressed and struggling,” Ninn says.

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She’s calling for “important first steps to enable the city to invest in intervention, in supports and in services that are led and sought after, by those who are most impacted.”

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Ward 5 Coun. Chad Collins is among those rejecting Nann’s motion, saying it “makes no financial sense.”

Under the current policy, Collins notes that surplus police operating funds are reinvested into the service’s capital needs, including vehicles, computers and facilities.

“(While) I understand the political motivation that’s here today, I don’t think, in principle or in policy, what’s in front of us works,” he said.

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City councillors, voting 10-2, have also formally approved the 2021 Hamilton Police Services budget, which includes an increase of 2.98 per cent.

The budget request was for a $5.1-million increase, compared to 2020, and went above council’s cap of two per cent for boards and agencies.

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