By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express
Durham’s police force is again seeing its budget go up in 2017, and again will not be adding to the number of officers it employs.
One of the largest chunks of regional spending, just over $193 million, is going towards DRPS, marking a three per cent increase over 2016, or $5.625 million.
The increase to DRPS’ budget is caused mostly by the extra $5.7 million needed for increased salaries and benefits, followed by an extra $622,000 for operating expenses. The numbers were brought down to the $5.625-million increase with savings elsewhere in the budget.
The size of the force, however, remains the same as it was six years ago, with 871 officers and 373 full-time equivalent civilian staff members.
However, despite the stalled growth of the force and more funds going towards salaries, Allan Furlong, a member of the Durham Police Services Board, says the cost of DRPS is on par with other police services in Ontario.
“The cost of policing remains competitive with our comparators and the DRPS continues to examine opportunities for greater efficiency,” Furlong told councillors. “The board is committed to the delivery of high-quality community-based policing that is accountable, professional and suitable.”
A problem that DRPS could potentially face in 2017 is a shortage of grant funds. As reported to regional council in January, changes were made by the province to its grant programs for police. Previously awarded as separate grants, they have now been consolidated into a single grant that police service boards must apply for, a change from the previous grants, which were not application-based.
Last year, DRPS received $3 million from those grants, and has them factored into this year’s budget. However, with applications not yet processed, DRPS does not know for sure if it will receive the level of funding that had been budgeted for, or if it will receive fewer dollars. Those funds are used, in part, to pay salaries at DRPS.
No timeline has been given by the province as to when a decision on how much grant money will be allotted to DRPS. However, Regional Chair Roger Anderson says he believes the answer will be known by April.