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M.D. council concerned about possible increased costs for rural policing

Posted on October 2, 2019 by Taber Times

By Cole Parkinson
Taber Times

With the MacKinnon Report released earlier this fall, many signs are signalling a shift in how policing costs are paid for around the province. 

One of those municipalities preparing is the Municipal District of Taber who have been exploring how those changes may affect them. 

“Yesterday (Sept. 23) we had a conference call with RMA (Rural Municipalities of Alberta). Basically, I got that municipalities under 5,000, M.D.’s and counties under 5,000 don’t pay (for policing) because it is covered by the province,” said Reeve Merrill Harris at M.D. council’s regular meeting on Sept. 24. “Basically, I wrote down that it’s transferring the cost of policing from the province down to municipalities. One of the formulas they talked about was using a combination approach of equalized assessment and population as to how to come up with how much each individual in the municipality pays.”

According to the M.D. of Taber, the Solicitor General would calculate these formulas based on population or equalized assessments (minus subsidies) to get a total cost recovery bill for the municipality to pay. 

For the M.D., while no official cost has come down, some rough estimates for the municipality have come in around $1.3 million while other estimates peg the total downloaded cost at nearly $600,000. 

On top of those possible costs coming to the M.D., they also have $220,000 in their budget for the Community Peace Officer program. 

“I also wrote down that many municipalities are already paying for policing with CPOs and enhanced RCMP officers. One of the municipalities talked about staffing levels and some detachments aren’t even up to full staffing levels right now,” continued Harris.

While many RCMP detachments across the province are reporting less than full levels of staffing, the Taber/Vauxhall detachment has informed M.D. council they have a full complement. 

“From the sounds of things, we are one of the few with (full RCMP staffed detachments),” added Coun. John Turcato. 

Right now, the M.D. doesn’t pay any money from their municipal budget for policing from the local RCMP detachment.
In conversation with RMA, and from documents the M.D. have acquired from them, there have been some suggestions on how they could proceed if the changes do become official. 

“In the statement that they had for background, RMA mentioned starting at 15 per cent because the range is 15 to 70 per cent. A lot of people, and I think I am one of them as well, suggest you should start at zero. If you start at 15, they’ll want more,” said Turcato. “To just hand us the bill and not have the discussion, we have sheriffs, DOTs, CPOs, there are so many levels of policing here. Is it effective? Is there a better way of policing here? Nobody is looking at that and I think it needs to be looked at. There is no sense at looking just at the cost, let’s look at the whole model. Maybe it is broken.” 

“I think right now, it should be focused on the policing model. I think we can include that at this point as we move forward, we should look at all aspects of policing or regulation. I think we should be succinct and are we in favour of adding a tax or in favour of the zero per cent,” added Deputy Reeve Tamara Miyanaga.

One hope from council, if they were required to start paying for policing, was for there to be an increased level of service. 

One councillor felt that many municipalities would be okay with paying for policing but only if it had a noticeable benefit moving forward.

“I think there may be some municipalities that would be willing to spend more if their level of service is going to increase,” explained Coun. Leavitt Howg. “If all they are doing is taking our money and putting it in the pot and keeping the same level of service, that is completely different from adding and making it better.”

Council agreed they would rather it be based on population than on assessment. 

A motion was made to direct administration to monitor this emerging situation and finalize the numbers that would impact the budget.

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