City council received the Nelson Police Department's proposed 2016 budget at its Monday meeting.

City council received the Nelson Police Department's proposed 2016 budget at its Monday meeting.

Nelson police ask again for funding increase

The Nelson Police Department presented its 2016 budget proposal to city council on Monday.

The Nelson Police Department is asking for the same increase in its 2016 budget that city council declined to give them this year.

The department presented its provisional budget on Monday, as it is legally required to do in November of each year.

The presentation, usually a major agenda item with detailed powerpoint slides and financial discussion, took less than five minutes.

Police board member Roger Higgins and Deputy Chief Paul Burkart presented essentially the same budget they presented for 2015, pending a ruling from the provincial director of police services on last year’s budget, which council refused to accept.

“Consistent with our needs in 2015, we are asking for the same: to increase our strength by two constables and one administrative coordinator,” Higgins told council. That increase would cost $311,000.

The provisional budget, not including the requested increase, amounts to $3,386,105 in expenditures, with revenues of $509,725.

When council turned down the request for extra staff during its budget deliberations this past spring, the police board appealed the decision to the provincial director of police services, who has the power to decide the minimum number of police officers a municipality must employ. The director, Clayton Pecknold, is expected to make a decision in the next few weeks.

Pecknold’s recommendations were delivered to city council and the police board this month but have not been made public.

Presenting the request for more staff last fall, Chief Wayne Holland told council the department hasn’t added any officer positions in 20 years and has had no increase in administrative support in 30 years.

The requested increase would amount to an increase of the police budget of about 11 per cent.

In the last eight years council has approved increases averaging 2.9 per cent per year, for a total of about 23 per cent. (Last year they agreed to an increase of $50,000.) During the same period, wages and benefits for officers rose 28 per cent, which the police board said eroded spending on operations and other initiatives.

Using the Canadian average of 193 police officers per 100,000 citizens, or 518 citizens per officer, the board suggested in its presentation last fall that the force should have 19 members rather than its current 17.

Mayor Deb Kozak said earlier this year that granting the $311,000 increase could involve raising taxes by up to four per cent. A one per cent increase in property taxes raises about $75,000 for the city. Kozak chairs the police board, which oversees the city-employed police department.

With files from Greg Nesteroff