News / Ottawa

‘You can only wring a cat’s neck so much: Police struggling to meet 2018 budget targets

The Police Services Board provided an update today, painting a picture of a service facing significant resource pressures.

Ottawa Police officers respond to a medical call at Metcalfe and Sparks streets on March 17, 2016.

Emma Jackson / Metro

Ottawa Police officers respond to a medical call at Metcalfe and Sparks streets on March 17, 2016.

Ottawa police will need to delay contributions to their capital reserves in order to meet the Police Services Board’s direction that the budget grow by no more than 2 per cent in 2018.

While the budget is on track to meet that target, significant concerns were raised that by delaying contributions to reserve funding, the board was simply kicking the can a bit further down the road, rather than addressing the larger issue of rising costs.

“My priority was not to cut staff and not impact services, and that’s what this budget does do — it delivers on the 2 per cent without touching those areas,” said police chief Charles Bordeleau. But on the way it was done he added, “it’s not my preferred option, but that’s the option that we’re left with.”

On the whole, the budget paints a picture of a police service grappling with the issue of rising costs, while continuing to try to find savings in an already-stretched budget.

“You can only wring a cat’s neck so much, and then eventually you’ll kill it,” said Jim Durrell, vice-chair of the board. “I think we’re very quickly approaching this point for police services.”

The board had previously budgeted that it will be able to find at least $2 million in savings each year until at least 2021. They remain confident in that regard, even though for 2018 they were only able to scrape together $600,000 in savings.

“Over the past number of years, we have achieved the $2 million,” said Bordeleau. “But that’s becoming more challenging.”

Coun. Eli El-Chantiry, who chairs the board, was frustrated by what he saw as an election-year budget.

“It shouldn’t be, but it is,” he said, suggesting that the 2 per cent directive should be up for debate by council. “Let city council understand that we’re plugging holes here. We’re not really achieving [anything].”

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