Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Paying for Police
Many time over I've highlighted the fact that in Alberta, provincial legislation creates an uneven playing field that financially disadvantages some municipalities. Essentially, in many areas the province has funding programs that create artificially uneven playing fields. The funding formula for police in the province is probably the prime example of this. In fact I highlighted it in this post from 2007. With the provincial cabinet making a tour of the province I'll press them on the issue again as it has a big impact on city residents.
The government's current funding formula states that:
• Towns and cities with a population from 5,001 to 20,000 receive a $200,000 base payment plus an additional $8.00 per capita.
• Cities and urban service areas with a population from 20,001 to 50,000 receive a $100,000 base payment plus $14.00 per capita.
• Cities and urban service areas with a population over 50,000 receive grants of $16.00 per capita.
In the case of the City of Grande Prairie this means the province funds only $800,000 of the City's $12 million dollar annual policing budget – approximately 6%. I've spoken with communities who are (probably jokingly) considering what they can do to convince people to move out of town so they don't go over the 5000 population mark. (See all the per capita grants given to communities across Alberta here)
The grant to cover 6% of The City of GP's cost is in contrast to the surrounding county, towns and village who are under no obligation to pay anything for towards the cost of RCMP service as the province covers 100% of the cost. As I noted back in the 2007 post to it's credit the County of GP does choose to hire additional RCMP at their full cost (I think it might be a total of 5 members now) which, in very round numbers, costs approximately $600,000.
Of course the advantage is that we are largely in control of our destiny when it comes to how many police we have - council makes the decision on when and how many RCMP officers we need to hire. But on the other side of the equation taxes in the city have to be higher to pay for those police and this added burden decreases the City's ability to be financially competitive with surrounding municipalities like the county.
So those who would like to see city taxes as low as the county should support our efforts to lobby the province make police funding more equitable. If it were we would at least have a fighting change.