After two days of debate, Edmonton city councillors approved a funding increase for the police service Friday.
In 2023, the EPS will received about $414 million, an increase of about $7 million from this year.
The decision came as part of a debate over a new funding formula for the service. The old one was thrown out in 2020 when the Defund The Police movement started and spending was scrutinized.
Council then asked for a budget review and funding formula, meant to provide clarity and consistency going forward.
“I want to make sure that we have predictability for the EPS, but we also have predictability for taxpayers,” Mayor Amarjeet Sohi explained.
But the decision made Friday provides neither.
Councillors called the proposed funding formula confusing and complicated.
Ultimately, they approved the formula and subsequent funding increase, though Sohi and Councillors Michael Janz, Jo-Anne Wright and Ashley Salvador voted against it.
But council also agreed to make the funding only applicable for 2023 and to have the debate again in the spring.
In the meantime, city staff has been tasked with bringing back several potential changes to the funding formula, including an option to reduce the budget.
“We can’t continue to go back and forth,” a visibly frustrated EPS Chief Dale McFee told reporters Friday.
“It’s our citizens that are demanding more services, they want more visibility. But it’s also an investment at some point,” he said.
McFee said it is too early to say what changes the service will have to make in response to the council decision.
While councillors originally requested the funding formula, they appeared divided Friday over whether they actually wanted one.
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“I would rather each year we have a comprehensive conversation about how are we doing in terms of policing and have that ability to adjust the budget accordingly,” Ward Papastew Councillor Janz said Friday.
His colleague Councillor Tim Cartmell supports a formula.
“(It) does drive predictability and it also, at least in the past, drove expectation. And that was: ‘This is what you have to work with. Work with it,’” expressed the Ward pihêsiwin representative.
The chief said all he wants to know is how much funding the police department has to work with going forward.
“We’re spending more time doing this and less time doing the actual safety component of our jobs.”