YORKTON - The cost to municipalities for RCMP services has gone up – way up actually.
The RCMP had been without a contract for some time, and when they finally agreed to a new contract it included a rather hefty pay increase, which municipalities will now have to pay moving forward
As for the RCMP costs, the largest portion of this is retro pay, for which the City had been saving towards in the RCMP budget for a number of years.
The result locally is that in 2022 the increases associated with RCMP costs, current year and retro pay, made up approximately 2.3 per cent of the 4.86 overall increase.
The City of Swift Current is estimating at least $1 million in retroactive pay while for the City of North Battleford, the one-time retroactive wage payment is estimated to be $1.67 million in 2022. In Warman, the policing budget is anticipated to rise by more than 21.5 per cent, and for the Town of La Ronge, the estimate is a 16 per cent increase, detailed a recent Saskatchewan SUMA release on the subject.
In Yorkton the impact in 2022 could have been worse had the city not been putting some dollars aside for expected back pay which was the largest portion of the hit to the recent budget.
However, what was saved ahead of time still fell short, with approximately $785,000 in reserves for policing to go towards the $1.4 million of retro pay. It was explained the reserves for the RCMP accumulated over the years when staffing was not at full numbers. The salaries saved went to reserves, explained Director of Finance Ashley Stradeski, at a regular meeting of Yorkton Council earlier this year.
While Yorkton managed to handle the massive one-time hit of $1.4 million through some preplanning and a somewhat modest increase to taxes this year to cover the remainder of it, the question lingers whether a municipality should have to pay the retro pay on a contract the federal government negotiated?
Just last week the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) President Taneen Rudyk issued a statement on contract policing and unbudgeted costs from the new RCMP collective agreement.
“To prevent serious repercussions on residents and community services, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, along with provincial and territorial associations in impacted regions, has been calling on the federal government to absorb all retroactive costs associated with the signing of the new RCMP bargaining agreement,” she stated in a release.
“Municipalities are paying a growing share of policing costs, but they cannot run deficits and have limited revenue tools. The federal government needs to absorb costs related to the retroactive pay instead of shifting the burden to those who can least afford it: communities and residents.”
“The retroactive pay was negotiated by the federal government, and therefore the federal government should absorb the costs instead of shifting the burden to our hometowns, and our residents,” said SUMA president Randy Goulden in a release last week by that organization.
The situation is one of those that like many comes down to who pays, and as usual when dealing with government it is ultimately the taxpayers. People in local municipalities face the entire cost of retro pay for their RCMP at this point, but should they pay less in the sense the federal government pay the back pay, spreading those costs over a larger tax base?
Certainly as SUMA and FCM have pointed out, municipalities were not at the table negotiating the new RCMP contract, which might suggest the signatory should pay the increase they agreed too. But, let’s face it an FCM chair at the table would not have changed the contract in any significant way, and municipalities have paid these costs before and will loving forward too.
Luckily, locally some money was set aside aware an increase was imminent and that lessened the blow. Not every municipality was as proactive.
Unfortunately, there are always limited dollars, so one to RCMP costs in one not invested to fix potholes or to pave walking paths, but ultimately, those are the tough decisions elected representatives on Council are always faced with.