Local municipalities are now on the hook for retroactive RCMP pay.
The federal government announced it won’t be covering the payments, which means the cost moves down the municipalities using the national police service.
“One of the biggest challenges is we had no say,” said Pictou Mayor Jim Ryan. “We’ve just had to sit back and wait.”
Municipalities were aware this might happen, so the town has been putting money into a reserve in the event the federal government made this decision.
“We did prepare for this,” said Ryan. “We are prepared to pay without cutting other services.”
The feds have given municipalities the option to pay the full amount now or pay it over a two-year period.
“If it’s interest free, it would only make sense (to pay over two years,)” said the mayor.
The town has until the end of April to make that decision.
The federal government decision will cost Pictou nearly $200,000 on top of its allotted policing budget, a 5.7 per cent increase, which would bring their police protection budget up to $1.04 million. With staffing and correctional costs, that figure is $1.14 million.
A number of municipalities now facing the retroactive bill are appealing to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) to have some say when making decisions that directly impact communities in the future.
“We should at least be represented,” said Ryan.
“The decision came out, and there wasn’t any negotiation from us,” said Municipality of Pictou County Warden Robert Parker. “We don’t have any choice but to pay it.”
While the Municipality has not yet been told the sum they will be subject to pay due to the retroactive pay, it’s estimated to cost $750,000 to $800,000. They’ve been told the number will come in the next few weeks, along with repayment details.
“The retroactive costs go back to 2017,” said the municipality’s chief administrative officer Brian Cullen. “The last two fiscal years we believe have been billed appropriately and reflect the cost increases of the contract. That leaves the four years prior as years that could be subject to the pay back of retroactive payments to the province.”
The 2022-23 policing budget is $3,953,217 compared to $3,809,567 in 2021-22.
Geoff Stewart, FCM second vice-president and Municipality of Colchester County deputy mayor, was disappointed with the federal government’s decision.
“This action is comparable to having someone spend your money without discussing it with you,” said Stewart, in a press release.
He says the decision “deeply impacts municipalities” without their representatives being involved or consulted.
Because of limited revenue options, it leaves municipalities with few choices, which oftentimes boil down choosing between cutting services or raising taxes.
“It’s a lot of money for us, and any municipality … we’re not looking for a cheaper policing system, but a better one, and the cost is going to be high,” said Parker.
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