Prince Albert’s Police Service has asked for four new sworn officers as part of their 2021 budget request.
That would amount to an extra $227,700 in expenses, which represents a 0.76 per cent mill rate increase to taxpayers. The cost of keeping those four new officers would increase to $429,200 in 2022, which amounts to a 1.43 per cent mill rate tax increase.
All four new positions would be dedicated to front-line core policing functions. The department says they would help meet high demands for service.
Calls for service have increased by almost 89 per cent in Prince Albert over the last 40 years, according to the police department’s budget submission. The total number of calls for service are equal to what would typically be found in a city of 100,000 people.
“The addition of four positions would create a safer community and enhance public and police safety while we continue to focus on initiatives to reduce our overall crime rate,” the budget submission reads. “The additional resources of four officers will enhance the service’s ability to deploy members on focused initiatives in a proactive manner rather than simply responding to calls after the fact.”
The police service has asked for a total funding increase of $649,490 in 2021, which would bring their total budget request to $17,397,850. That’s a 3.88 per cent increase over what they received in 2020. It amounts to a 2.03 per cent mill rate tax increase.
Salaries, wages and benefits are the biggest reason for the increase. The current collective bargaining agreement runs for another year, but a wage increase of 1.5 per cent comes into effect on Jan. 1. Guards and matrons who work in the police cellblock are not union members, but the budget submission includes a 1.5 per cent wage increase for them as well.
Staffing costs account for 88.29 per cent of the municipal police budget. Prince Albert has 126 permanent employees, 96 of which are sworn officers. Provincial funding covers 20 sworn officer positions, and 23 positions total. That number hasn’t changed since 2018.
Prince Albert has roughly 273 police officers per 100,000 residents according to last year’s budget submission. That’s higher than both Saskatoon (173) and Regina (171).
The police department said that’s because Prince Albert is a unique community, with a large number of rural and northern residents flowing through the community every day. They said those residents can be difficult to count accurately, which skews the statistics.
Mayor Greg Dionne said he expects to defer the request to 2021 because the City wants provincial help in paying for those positions.
“Ideally I would like to see us hire more than four officers, but there are budget restraints,” Dionne said on Thursday. “That will be referred to the (next) budget, if council agrees. It’s a big-ticket item, but we do have a plan to hire more officers and move forward with the hiring process.”
General Fund budget deliberations are scheduled for Jan. 6-7. Sanitation, Utility, Airport and Land Fund budget debates begin on Jan. 20. There will be no public presentations during these meetings.