The current city council lobbed a financial bomb into the laps of the next city council to be elected this fall.
That’s because an attempt by Mayor Andy Adams to lessen the future burden of a larger-than-projected wage increase for RCMP officers died at the council table at the city council meeting on March 28.
“Best wishes to the future council that’s going to have to inherit this,” Mayor Adams said after his motion was defeated.
The National Police Federation and the federal government reached a first-ever collective agreement in August 2021. The collective agreement was retroactive to April 1, 2017 and expires on March 31, 2023. At the advice of the RCMP, since 2017, the city has accrued 2.5 per cent annually to pay retroactive amounts and has budgeted for this increase in an effort to stabilize tax increases. The final settled-upon wage increases were more substantial than what the city had been advised. They were actually 3.6 per cent, resulting in additional funding from the 2021 and 2022 surplus having to be used. This will also result in an approximately $996,000 increase in RCMP contracted services in 2023.
“I think there’s two different issues here,” Coun. Claire Moglove said. “One is the retroactive pay, which has accumulated since 2017, which we put money aside at 2.5 per cent. But it came in at 3.6 per cent. And the difference between the 2.5 and the 3.6 is that shortfall that we’ve covered with surplus. So we’ve covered it. That’s sort of the first part of the puzzle.
“But the second puzzle piece is that, because the collective agreement has come in at this higher amount going forward. The cost per officer is instead of being $196,000…which we thought it would be in 2022, it’s actually 214,000 per officer.”
So the financial planning for 2022 was based on a figure that has now been updated, leaving the city short in 2022, Moglove said. And the city will continue to be short in 2023. In fact, it will compound for 2023.
City staff had given council some options with how to deal with the situation. One was to receive the information and essentially do nothing other than go forward with the shortfall covered by the 2.5 per cent set aside for this anticipated contractual increase and take the rest from the 2021 surplus. Staff recommended they go with this option and that’s what council went with.
Two other options were proposed. One was that the report be received for information and council direct staff to prepare amendments to the 2022-2031 Ten Year Financial Plan Bylaw, 2021 to include the increases associated with policing contracted services as identified in the restated Multi Year Financial Plan. The other option was that “Council provide alternate direction to staff.” Neither of these two options were taken.
Mayor Adams attempted to get support for a proposal to deal with the shortfall, at least partially. He put forward a motion that “the 2022-2031 Financial Plan be amended to add 50 per cent of the difference between the anticipated increase and the actual increase, which equals an additional 0.55 per cent tax increase in 2022, as a direct result of the increased settlement costs of the RCMP Collective Agreement as determined by the Government of Canada and the National Police Federation.”
This would amend the overall tax increase for 2022 from 3.14 per cent to 3.69 per cent.
Mayor Adams said his proposal wouldn’t cover the whole shortfall but it will lessen the tax burden on the next council who will then consider other options like the size of the RCMP detachment in addressing the shortfall.
“But for us, knowing what the numbers are now, to not do anything to address it, and push all of this forward for a future council, I think is completely irresponsible,” Adams said. “And so I put this as an option for discussion. I hope that there’ll be some entertainment that we put a small portion to try to chip away.”
The mayor, who relinquished his seat as the chair of the meeting to propose and discuss the motion, was unable to get it passed.