Victoria is preparing for a situation similar to the one that saw Vancouver ordered to restore millions in funding to its police department.
The City of Victoria approved putting $940,000 into its financial stability reserve at its April 14 council meeting to prepare for the possibility of the province making it pay for non-core budget police resources – which were recently removed from the 2022 budget.
This move comes after the Victoria and Esquimalt Police Board voted to invoke a Police Act appeal over the Victoria Police Department’s requests for 10 new positions and overtime.
Victoria council in February approved $940,000 in 2022 for the new positions – six sworn and four civilian – but the budget process hit a snag last month when Esquimalt councillors rejected funding the force’s additional officers.
Section 27 (3) of the Police Act states that disputes over budget items must go to the provincial policing director, who determines “whether the item(s) or amount should be included.”
On April 14, several Victoria councillors said the prudent option was to make sure the city had money on hand should the province side with the police board and force the capital city and Esquimalt to pay for VicPD’s requests.
A similar event happened last month, when B.C.’s director of police services ordered the City of Vancouver to restore a $5.7 million cut from the department’s 2021 budget.
After that decision, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart noted its council decided to reduce the police department’s 2021 budget “during the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic when all departments were asked to do more with less.”
Victoria in the coming weeks is expected to adopt its 2022 budget that will include a property tax increase of around 3.9 per cent. Staff recommended that the city takes in an additional $218,000 in property taxes this year that would go toward the police budget appeal.
However, council passed a measure to keep that money in taxpayers’ pockets this year. Coun. Ben Isitt introduced that approved amendment, as he said taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay in 2022 for a decision that might not even come this year. It took about a year for the province to make a decision in the Vancouver police budget appeal.
VicPD sought an additional $4 million this year, for a total proposed budget of about $63.4 million. Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins defended her council’s decision last month, citing data showing the township was already overpaying for police services.
Desjardins told Black Press Media on Tuesday the board decided to make the provincial appeal during a special meeting that was only about two minutes long on April 5.