Other City of Toronto departments urged to find 2 per cent in savings.
Mayor John Tory has acknowledged Toronto’s billion-dollar police budget is set to rise — again — despite asking all city agencies and divisions to find at least 2 per cent in budget savings.
“They (Toronto Police Service) have been working away at trying to make sure the increase is as modest as it can be,” Tory said Friday.
The police budget is 90 per cent made up of salaries negotiated in a collective agreement “so it complicates it in terms of leaving you less leeway,” the mayor said.
Earlier this year, Tory and the seven-member police board signed off on a contract that gives officers wage increases of 2.75 per cent this year, 1.95 per cent next year, 1.9 per cent in 2017 and 1.75 per cent in 2018.
That follows two previous contracts that bumped pay in excess of 20 per cent over seven years.
This year’s police budget grew to $1.16 billion but included $64 million in additional provincial funding to cover security costs for the Pan Am Games in July. Property taxes paid for $957 million
The recent contract — which will boost the base salary of a first-class constable to $98,450 by 2018 — will cost Toronto taxpayers an extra $65 million over four years. Last year, 4,125 of the service’s 7,800 uniform and civilian employees earned more than $100,000.
The mayor has said the new deal “sends a message” of restraint to everyone in the public sector.
In June, he wrote to the city’s budget committee outlining his priorities for the 2016 budget, which includes holding property tax increases to the rate of inflation or below.
He also called on all city agencies and divisions to “find at least” 2 per cent in savings. “We need to take a determined, practical, business-like approach to eliminate the inefficiency marbled throughout government,” he wrote.
Police brass will present the service’s budgetary requests for 2016 to the board Monday amid criticism that details weren’t released in advance, as is customary.
“We believe the public has a right to see the budget before it is considered and approved by the board,” the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition wrote in a letter.
“To approve budgets which have not been made available for public comment would be a substantial dereliction of duty.”
The police board approves the service’s spending request before it goes before city council. However, as TPAC notes, the Police Services Act prohibits council from making any changes to items within the budget: “that function is entirely in the control of the board,” the police watchdog group states in a letter written by former Toronto mayor John Sewell.
TPAC is calling on the board to immediately post the chief’s budgets on the board’s web site.
Adding to budgetary pressures is the fact fewer officers are leaving than the force anticipated. Uniform staffing levels at year-end 2014 were higher than assumed at the time of the service prepared its 2015 budget request, resulting in “continuing annualized salary costs.”
“Actual separations to the end of May 2015 are also less than had been estimated. At this time, the Service is projecting 150 separations for the year, compared to the 180 included in the 2015 budget,” the TPS said in their 2015 budget submissions.