Sir: The Municipal Act says it is the role of council to represent the public and to consider the well-being and interests of the community and to ensure that administrative and controllership policies, practices; procedures are in place in order to implement the decisions of council.
I asked one council member about our police budget details. That member replied, “Administration doesn’t give us anything, that we get the same stuff you do.”
During the 2020 budget, committee chair Brock McGregor represented through the media that council isn’t able to review the Chatham-Kent Police Services’ $32M budget and remove things from the police budget in the same way as other municipal department budgets.
Coun. McGregor further stated council’s only option is to accept the police budget or not. His comments leave the impression the police budget is part of the Eliot Ness enforcement during the Chicago prohibition – the Untouchables.
As is legislated, the Police Services Act allows council to establish an overall budget, that council is not bound to adopt budget estimates, that only “specific items” in the police budget are outside the reach of council’s authority.
Lastly, municipal councils are allowed to review a police budget on a line-by-line basis. After all, police departments are no different, in that, they are taxpayer funded like every other department and must be open and transparent, with exception of a couple of covert operational areas.
Our attempts to get detailed financial information from our police services to learn of all the personal and negotiated perks and unnecessary spending advantages within that department, including a $45,000 unidentified cost, are akin to squeezing pickle juice from an onion.
For council to pass a municipal department’s $32M budget without a detailed and responsible review is a travesty, is irresponsible and could support a contravention of the Municipal Act and a failure by council to exercise their legislated authority under the Police Services Act.
Council has little idea, if any, of the significant cost savings associated from a responsible review of how police are spending your money. A reshuffling of our police budget to best triage budget funds, all the while keeping within the guidelines of the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, could result in all monies saved going toward frontline staff increasing resident service as well as controlling department costs, subsequently reducing annual tax hikes.
Coun. Thompson and Ceccacci were correct to describe needing more time to review budgets.
Using the police department as an example of only one department of our six departments and 21 divisions, having our Minister of Municipal Affairs enforce and review current legislation compelling a fair, equitable, open, honest, responsible and strategic budget review by municipal councils, exposing the full scope of how dollars are being spent, only then will we see local economic improvement.