Ottawa Police Services Board eyes 0% budget increase in 2022 — with caveats

The Ottawa Police Service could be asked to design a 2022 budget on the assumption of a zero per cent increase. File / Global News

The Ottawa Police Services Board is proposing a 2022 budget direction that, if approved, would see the local force plan for a budget based on a zero per cent increase over 2021 levels.

However, the board cautions in documents filed with the city ahead of next week’s meeting that it remains constrained by some factors that could result in a budget hike anyway.

In the OPSB budget direction, consultations for which are already underway, the board is proposing that the Ottawa police design a 2022 budget “with the assumption of a 0% increase.”

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Any additional funding beyond 2021 levels will require a “detailed explanation,” according to the OPSB report submitted by Chief Peter Sloly.

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The report highlights “two major areas beyond the control of the OPS that will impact the draft budget.”

The first impact is the effect of inflation, which the board report says is greater than usual this budget season because of pressures from COVID-19.

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The other impact is the OPS collective bargaining agreement with its officers. The board is currently awaiting the results of negotiations with the Ottawa Police Association and Senior Officers Association.

In response to calls to limit the OPS budget ask in 2021, officer salary increases were cited as the reason for 85 per cent of the board’s total budget hike.

The OPSB passed a motion during last year’s budget deliberations that it would try to limit increases or freeze the OPS coffers at current levels — the force’s gross operating budget in 2021 was $376.4 million — but Ottawa city council earlier this year gave the force an “envelope” for an up to three per cent budget increase in 2022, based on a likewise increase in citywide levies.

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If exercised, that would see an additional $13.5 million added to the OPS budget in 2022, funding that community advocates have pushed to be redistributed to social initiatives such as housing and mental health supports.

OPSB chair Diane Deans conceded earlier this year that it could take “more than a year” for the board to hit its goal of freezing the Ottawa police budget. The board recently hired StrategyCorp, a third-party consultant, to explore options to achieve an eventual zero per cent budget hike.

The OPSB will meet on Monday to consider the budget direction.

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