Update: see previous posts – May 10, 2011 McGuinty Agrees to 14.06% Minimum Raise for OPP Officers Without Arbitration by 2014, May 5, 2011 Toronto Police – Highest Paid in Country
TORONTO – An 8.55% pay increase for OPP officers — the result of a provincial government commitment to make them the highest paid cops in Ontario — is forcing up property taxes.
Municipal leaders in communities policed by the OPP say they have to explain to their unhappy residents why property taxes are going up.
And larger municipalities that have their own police services, like Toronto, are bracing for “replicating” arbitration as their officers seek parity with the OPP.
All communities expect difficult negotiations with firefighters and EMS who are eyeing the 8.55% increase.
As of Jan. 1 — when the pay hike took effect — an OPP constable with three years on the job started earning an annual base salary of $90,621.
Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara said the pay increase will cost his community $320,000 more this year, which accounts for a 2.9% increase on the property tax bill.
“I could have had a zero per cent tax increase this year if it wasn’t to match that salary,” McNamara complained. “The seniors, those on fixed pensions, are feeling the pinch the most. I’m not even enhancing the services in the community and my costs are increasing dramatically.”
Chris White, mayor of the Township of Guelph-Eramosa and warden of the County of Wellington, said the 8.55% pay jump works out to about $950,000 of a $1.2-million increase in OPP costs this year — or roughly half of an anticipated 2.2% property tax hike.
“Bottom line it goes on the levy — absolutely it comes from the taxpayers,” White said. “Frankly, as things currently stand, one of our only options would be to reduce the number of officers we’re bringing on board … that’s the one thing we can control.”
Southwest Middlesex Mayor Doug Reycraft, past-president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), said his community’s OPP bill is up $118,552 — a 3.7% property tax increase — without putting a single additional officer on the road.
“(People) aren’t going to be happy about this but we really have little choice,” Reycraft said of his constituents. “There’s no possible way that we can continue to increase policing costs by the kinds of percentages that are happening all over the province.”
There is no complaint from the municipalities about the quality of the service provided by the OPP, but they say it has reached the point where local governments can’t afford it anymore.
They’re calling on the provincial government to deal with the arbitration system, which they say allows emergency service workers to leapfrog each other’s wage hikes without any real consideration of the local taxpayers’ ability to pay.
According to the 2012 provincial auditor report, 6,300 OPP officers provide front-line services in some areas of the province, contract with municipalities that do not have their own service, patrol highways and investigate complex criminal cases and organized crimes.
About one-third of the roughly $1-billion OPP bill is covered by municipalities while the provincial government picks up the remainder.
The auditor pointed out that while serious motor vehicle accidents are down, and calls for service are stable, the cost to municipalities for OPP services has jumped 27% over the same period.
Municipal politicians say this is twice the rate that other services have gone up and has become unsustainable.
The Ontario Liberal government, under former premier Dalton McGuinty, signed a contract with the OPP that gave them two years of zero increases followed by a catch-up in 2014 to make them the highest paid in the province.
That year has arrived and the 8.55% pay hike is costing municipalities hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“Our government has taken steps to manage compensation growth while working in partnership with the Ontario Provincial Police Association (OPPA),” said Seirge LeBlanc, a spokesman for Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Madeleine Meilleur.
“The OPPA agreed to a two-year wage freeze in 2012 and 2013,” LeBlanc added in a statement. “In the three years prior to 2012, compensation increases were 1% per year lower than historic wage trends for comparable police forces. The most recent agreement will bring OPP officers in line with their colleagues across the province.”
But as the Toronto Sun reported previously, even the two years of zero per cent came with a hidden salary sweetener — 2% and 4% hikes in 2012 and 2013, respectively, for 11 different categories of officers.
Prior to the two-year pay freeze, OPP officers got a 5% pay hike.
That contract was negotiated during an election year, and the next agreement could be as well.
FIGHTING CRIME PAYS
- Recruit Constable (from first day of training): $49,751
- Probationary Constable (after graduation from training): $63,434
- Constable (3rd Class): $72,501
- Constable (2nd Class): $ 80,658
- Constable (1st Class, after 36 months): $90,621
- OPP Northern Duration Posting Incentives: $30,000 a year for two years, plus one-time $2,000 for travel expenses
- Pensions: OPP only police service in Ontario to offer 50/30 Pension
- Sick leave: Six days at full pay and additional 124 days at 75% pay
- Drug Card for Prescription Drugs
- Dental/Vision/Hearing Coverage
- Most Benefits are retained on retirement and/or beyond the age of 65