Halifax’s Board of Police Commissioners will host a public meeting on the police budget in Dartmouth next week.
The meeting is scheduled for 4:30pm on Monday in the Harbour East Marine Drive Community Council room at Alderney Landing. That room is located near the building’s main entrance.
Clerk Iain MacLean told the board during its meeting on Wednesday that staff are working on setting up equipment in the room to livestream the meeting online. The board voted to move the meeting to that location.
The board held its first ever public meeting on the police budget last year, virtually. Most speakers asked the board to defund the police, but the board recommended an increase.
Both Halifax Regional Police and Halifax-district RCMP are looking for budget increases for the coming year.
As the Halifax Examiner reported last month, HRP is seeking a 6.8% increase for fiscal 2023-2024. Chief Dan Kinsella has proposed an operating budget of $95.264 million. That’s $6.07 million more than the current year’s budget of $89.195 million.
Much of the increase is due to rising wages for officers under their collective agreement. But Kinsella is also looking to add three sergeants, a police psychologist, and an occupational health nurse. Those five positions total $627,700.
In a report to the board ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, HRP included two potential savings to their budget. That’s a response to council’s goal to limit next year’s increase to the average property tax bill to 4%.
Those savings would total $237,500. Of that figure, $83,600 comes from discontinuing “Lake Safety Patrol and Lifeguard Services on the waters of Lake Micmac and Lake Banook.” Presumably that’s separate from HRM’s lifeguard service at Birch Cove Beach. The remaining $153,900 comes from added revenue from increasing the service charge to officers for extra duty work, like guarding Superstores, from 3% to 10%.
RCMP want to add officers
The RCMP made their case to the board on Wednesday for adding 16 officers over the next three years. As the Examiner reported last month, that would cost an extra $716,208 in 2023-2024 for four new officers, and then more than $1 million each in 2024-2025 and 2025-2026 for six officer in each of those years.
The current year RCMP budget is about $32.9 million, including $642,500 added through the year based on officers’ new collective agreement.
RCMP Chief Supt. Jeff Christie told the board on Wednesday that he needs the new officers to respond to a growing number of complicated mental health calls.
Following the RCMP presentation, chief administrative officer Cathie O’Toole asked Christie how many of the positions HRM pays for are vacant. Of the 183 officer positions and one civilian position paid for, Christie said 176 are filled.
The board plans to make recommendations to council on both the HRP and RCMP budgets.
Kent elected chair
Coun. Becky Kent is the new chair of the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners.
The board elected Kent, the councillor for District 3 — Dartmouth South-Eastern Passage, in a secret ballot. She won over Commissioner Gavin Giles.
Kent has voted in favour of police budget increases during her time on the board, and argued against attempts to reduce the budget.
Commissioner Harry Critchley was acclaimed as vice chair of the board.