With salaries and benefits consuming about 90 per cent of the police budget, Greater Sudbury Police Chief Frank Elsner says the force has already cut as much as it can from its $51.2-million budget for next year.
When several officers retired a few years ago, police saved money when new recruits were hired at a lower salary. But as they gain experience and move up through the salary grid, costs increase each year.
“As that (salary grid) number creeps up, it gets harder and harder,” Elsner told members of the police services board Wednesday. “There is absolutely no fat in this budget.”
To get the increase to 2.6 per cent, he said the force is taking such measures as delaying hiring two officers and capping its overtime budget. But that would go out the window, he said, if there was a major crime requiring major police resources.
Another soaring cost is insurance, which has increased by 40 per cent compared to last year. Elsner said he had no idea why, but said it's a provincewide problem, and not specific to Sudbury.
“When I got the number, I was shocked.”
He said demands on police continued to rise year-over-year, with call volumes increasing to more than 62,000, compared to 48,715 in 2000. The service will continue to focus on drug, gun, gang and violent crime, as well as its community outreach programs, he said.
“The budget is realistic, and should meet city threshold,” Elsner said.
The board approved it easily, with only Mayor Marianne Matichuk voting against.
The mayor has long advocated limiting departmental increases to no more than two per cent, and wondered whether police could find ways to reduce the increase by another 0.6 per cent.
She suggested GSPS could increase revenue by setting up speed traps and handing out more speeding tickets — a suggestion Elsner said couldn't be done.
“From a policing perspective, ethically, there is no way we would go out and increase enforcement to increase revenue generation,” he said. “That's got southern Mississippi written all over it.”
CAO Sharon Baiden said the new licence-plate reader police are acquiring will likely lead to more tickets being issued, and more fines, which could lead to a revenue jump. But other than user fees – which can only be increased by three per cent a year, under city council guidelines – police don't have a lot of options to generate more revenue.
While passed at the board level, the police budget must still be approved by city council as part of the overall municipal budget later this fall.