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Letter to the editor: Who and what is making your city taxes higher?

To the editor: The Police Services and city council. Although city administration was sent back to reduce the tax levy, they were as we were shocked that city council directed almost all the savings to the Police Services. What a Shame.

To the editor:

Although city administration was sent back to reduce the tax levy increase, they were as we were shocked that city council directed almost all the savings to the Thunder Bay Police Service.

What a shame.

Where are senior citizens and others on fixed incomes to find the extra funds to pay for this wrongdoing? Council also took these funds from the kids fighting to save Dease Pool and gave them to the police.

City staff told council during the 2019 budget deliberations that if the police budget passed as is, it would represent 19 per cent of Thunder Bay’s net operating budget.

Not including the $1.46 million for capital expenditures like SUVs and guns for police, it appears the the police want almost $3 million $4.3-million tax levy increase for this year.

The entire police budget was done in haste, and residents have to pay for it.

First the Thunder Bay Police Services Board supposedly dealt with the police service’s budget in closed session due to the nature of the documents provided and the Board passed a motion at their October 16,2018 Closed Session meeting relative to the budget.

Was it appropriate for the board to pass a motion relative to the budget in closed session, and should there not be transparency in police spending?

Next city administration releases the 2019 budget highlights on Jan. 3, when it claimed one of the major drivers in the budget is expansion in police services, coming in at $900,000.

However, looking at the police budget, one notes a 5.3 per cent increase, or nearly $2.2 million, over their 2018 budget.

At a Jan.15Thunder Bay Police Board meeting, the board approves an additional $1.08 million in the police budget to cover the costs to implement the Office of the Independent Police Review Director's recommendations.

Later that same day city council was presented with adding this $1.08-million budget item to the police budget.

Whether council has the authority to add a specific item to the police budget is another matter.

Regardless, in the presentation to city council , the police chief provides a comparator of the criminal investigations branch with the municipalities of York, Sudbury and Barrie, with a claim that the Thunder Bay Police Service is understaffed.

What thepolice chief conveniently forgot to mention are the officers per 100,000 population in these municipalities. These can easily be obtained from Stats Canada and for 2017 show 137, 159.9, 158.9 and 197 (Thunder Bay) officers per 100,000 population respectively, for the municipalities mentioned above.

Are they really understaffed?

On Jan. 21,2019, the police chief provided council with briefing notes, the TBPS jurisdictional profile.

There are not enough crutches in the world to support what is contained in that document.

A prime example is a chart showing Total Police Expenditures as a percentage of municipal expenses for different municipalities in Ontario.

Well wouldn’t you know it Thunder Bay has the lowest expenditures as a percentage of municipal expenses.

What is not readily apparent in the chart is the fact that Thunder Bay is the only municipality that lists a telephone utility as a municipal expense. You only have to do the math to see what it does to total police expenditures as a  percentage of municipal expenses when you take out the $160 million for the telephone expenses from the municipal expenses.

On Jan. 30 city council approves the addition of $1.08  million to the Police Budget to cover the costs to implement the OIPRD recommendations. Again whether city council has the authority to approve or disapprove a specific item in the police budget is not clear. A reduction in this $1.08 M was made by using $249,500 of the stabilization reserve funds to cover some one time costs.

Residents should note that they are being taxed $500,000 this year so the city can put it into that same fund.

Give with one hand and take with the other.

This past Monday, council ratified the budget.

An attempt was made by the budget chair to cover more costs of the OIPRD recommendations with reserve funds, specifically to cover the costs of the $1.7-million body and car cams based on a pilot project currently under way and to end Feb.28.

The results of this pilot project will have a comprehensive review once completed. So until then let us put in $1.7 million in the budget for body and car cams spread out over five years regardless of the comprehensive review.

Maybe this is something the CIB can look into? Montreal just days ago based on their study rejected the use of body cams as a way to hold officers accountable as being costly and ineffective.

The 2019 city budget was a rush job as city council took no control of the police budget presented them, they could have simply said the amount requested of the city was unacceptable.

Ron Balina,
Thunder Bay

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