Halifax regional council narrowly voted to increase the Halifax Regional Police budget by $384,200 over the previous year, bringing their total budget for the 2022-23 year to $89.2 million.
In a Friday meeting, council voted to pass the budget with nine yes votes and eight against.
Those who voted to pass the budget were: Lisa Blackburn, Shawn Cleary, David Hendsbee, Tony Mancini, Becky Kent, Tim Outhit, Trish Purdy, Paul Russell and Mayor Mike Savage.
Councilors that voted against it were: Sam Austin, Patty Cuttell, Cathy Deagle Gammon, Pam Lovelace, Waye Mason, Kathryn Morse, Iona Stoddard, and Lindell Smith.
Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella presented a financial summary of the new proposal on Friday, saying the increase will help HRP “fill in some of our most critical operational gaps.”
Kinsella’s initial budget request came in at $2.9 million over the allocation of $87,830,000 set by finance staff. That target allows for a proposed tax increase of 4.6 per cent.
The Board of Police Commissioners (BoPC) narrowly passed Kinsella’s initial offer, which would have resulted in an increase of $1.98 million over last year’s budget. That budget was presented to council in late February, but council motioned that the BoPC consider a reduced budget increase.
On Wednesday night, commissioners debated the revised proposed HRP budget increase of $1.36 million over the target.
Friday, HRP financial coordinator Craig Horton presented the newly revised budget options. As stated, the proposed $1.365 million budget is allowing for:
- 12 full-time patrol constables ($994,400)
- Hate unit detective constable ($82,900)
- Member reintegration pilot program constable ($82,900)
- Emergency response communicator supervisor ($104,300)
- Three part-time emergency response communicators ($100,500)
Previously, the HRP had requested two sexual assault detective positions as part of its budget proposal.
After Coun. Kathryn Morse asked why those positions were not included in Friday’s presentation, Kinsella said it would cost an additional $165,700 to bring them back.
“What it’s going to mean is a little bit of reduced service, prioritization of the calls, a larger caseload for detectives,” he said.
Kinsella said under the HRP’s collective agreement there is no room for part-time officers to fill this role.
Coun. Lindell Smith, who chairs the BoPC, opposed the proposal at the commissioners meeting, and again on Friday he said it’s because of the removal of the sexual assault role.
“I really find it difficult to support this budget without having the victim services worker and the constable that would focus on the sexual assaults that are happening,” Smith said in Friday’s meeting.
“Knowing that we’re seeing sexual assaults are on the rise, to me it’s paramount that we try to do the best we can do deal with those issues.”
Kinsella repeated this work will continue to be done, but current officers will have more on their hands and will have to prioritize under the proposed reduced budget.
Several councillors also questioned the need for 12 new patrol constables citing a lack of evidence, as Kinsella had said the hires would address the issue of absenteeism and sick leaves. The police chief maintained the 12 new positions are needed.
After the main motion on police budgets passed, Coun. Smith had added a motion to add $100,000 for BoPC staffing to the proposed HRP budget.
“We’re asking for more reports, we’re asking for more research, we’re asking for more information from our chief,” he said.
“The commission just doesn’t have the resources needed to answer all the questions, do all the work that we want to do… We’re trying our best but we’re getting to a point where it’s showing.”
Council passed the motion to add this amount to its 2022-23 budget adjustment list, but it still needs to pass a final vote on the overall budget.
— with files from Alexa MacLean.