Update: see previous post – November 9, 2015 Toronto police force lacks ‘mindset’ to trim budget
Mayor John Tory says profound changes are coming, meanwhile the 2016 budget is still a “work in progress.”
A report recommending radical cost-cutting measures will be publicly discussed at a Toronto police board meeting in December after the chair and Mayor John Tory says they received a draft copy just three weeks ago.
However, the former chair of the police services board, Alok Mukherjee, says the board had all the information needed starting a year ago, well ahead of 2016 budget talks that are continuing this week.
“It’s still a work in progress,” Tory said of the budget on Tuesday. Nevertheless, he said he was “satisfied” with the “progress.” After the force originally requested a 5.8 per cent increase, several back and forths with the board have lowered that request to a 2.76 per cent increase over 2015 — an additional $27 million for a total budget still topping $1 billion.
The board is expected to accept that request at a meeting on Thursday.
“We will continue to work at it until the very last day to make sure we are investing the public’s hard-earned money as wisely as possible in maintaining a safe city,” Tory told reporters.
In a report to the board, the Toronto Police Service said it was able to claw back $9.1 million from a previous request, which had represented a 3.69 per cent increase over last year. That reduction was made possible, the report reads, in part by the TPS identifying $2.4 million in unexplained future revenues found upon “further review.”
The Star earlier reported the recommendations from consultant KPMG — including closing all 17 police divisions in favour of storefront operations — had been buried by the board ahead of the budget process. Current board chair Andy Pringle earlier refused to make the report public but in a statement Tuesday said the report would now be released ahead of a meeting Dec. 17, where he said it will be discussed in public.
Tory said he has been urging that the report, which he said contains some “fairly profound changes,” be released as soon as possible.
“They’re not changes that can be made at the drop of a hat and so even if we had had full access to the full report sooner than we did I think it would have been hard for us to achieve big savings this year,” Tory said. “I would expect you’re going to see some of those very significant reforms proceeded with.”
Pringle also said Tuesday that the board created a working group to analyze the report in late October. Board members went on a two-day retreat this fall facilitated by KPMG consultants to discuss the recommendations; however, by then 2016 budget negotiations were well underway.
Mukherjee, who stepped down from the board this summer, said the KPMG recommendations were first presented to board members in November 2014 and discussed in greater detail in March of this year. The service began developing its operating-budget request a month later, in April, according to board documents.
“They can bounce around it all they want but they had the information going into the budget process,” Mukherjee said.
Board member Councillor Shelley Carroll said while they were aware of the recommendations in March, they did not have a comprehensive briefing. At that time, she said, the board was preoccupied with the hiring process to replace departing chief Bill Blair.
“For a long time it has sat there waiting until we had the chief replaced,” she said. “It was agreed these are great changes and we should start wrapping our heads around them because we’re going to want to proceed with them as soon as the new chief gets here.”
Chief Mark Saunders was officially sworn into his new role this May.