Policing costs are steadily increasing and developments at the provincial and national level don’t offer any obvious solutions for smaller municipalities like Parksville, according to acting mayor Chris Burger.
Speaking from the Union of B.C. Municipalities conference in Vancouver on Wednesday, after Solicitor General Shirley Bond announced that Ottawa threatened to withdraw RCMP services if a new 20-year contract is not reached by November, Burger said those are issues that have to be worked out at the provincial and federal levels, but could impact Parksville.
Policing services are “by far the largest single item on the Parksville budget,” he said, and are projected to hit $2 million a year soon, out of the city’s roughly $15 million budget.
He said Parksville has looked into the possibility of establishing its own police force and found it would cost far more than the the RCMP currently cost for those services.
“The detachment is currently doing a good job,” he said, pointing out that among other benefits, as a huge national organization they can parachute in resources as needed for big events or major crimes, which a small force simply can’t do.
The city is also approaching the 15,000 population cutoff (currently around 11,000) in which they would lose the small communities grant and have to pay 90 percent of the cost, instead of the 70 percent it is now responsible for.
“That would amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra costs,” Burger said.
“That’s one of the reasons I repeatedly say it’s good to be small,” he said, pointing out that the current proposed build-outs could push the city over that line and easily require a five to seven per cent tax increase just to pay for the same policing services.
“These are all very big ‘ifs’ for us,” he concluded, indicating the city has to watch the negotiations and deal with the effects.