Despite some uncertainty about funding, the Orillia Police Services Board passed its draft operating budget for 2019-20 on Wednesday.
The budget will now go to the city treasurer before being presented to council at a later date.
Questions remain about a provincial grant and the cost of replacing the city’s surveillance camera system.
The board has been waiting more than a year to find out how much of the Community Policing Partnerships Program and the Safer Communities – 1,000 Officers Partnership Program grant it will receive from the province. Those grants represent about $100,000.
The province has indicated the board will receive $75,000, but it hasn’t been officially approved. The board incorporated that amount into the draft budget “to err on the side of caution,” said Kristine Preston, the city’s assistant clerk and the executive assistant to the police services board.
“It is a concern,” she said. “I’m hopeful that when I reach the council table, I will have a definitive answer.”
The board is also looking to replace the city’s “antiquated” camera system, Preston said. Despite that, the draft budget includes the same amount as last year’s — $20,400 — because the actual cost remains unclear. The board is waiting for input from Orillia OPP about the type of system needed.
The current network of cameras was installed in 2013 and, when asked if the entire system would need to be replaced, Preston said, “it’s safe to say yes.”
Once the board hears from the OPP, it will be able to provide a more detailed cost for the project. That might require a special meeting of the board.
Another uncertainty during the budget process is the amount of revenue from fines issued under the Provincial Offences Act.
“It has been brought to my attention via the quarterly reports provided by the City of Barrie, which manages the courts on behalf of the Orillia Service Area, that there have been over 700 less charges laid in the City of Orillia in the first two quarters of 2019 compared to the same time period in 2018,” Shawn Crawford, the city’s manager of legislative services, wrote in a letter to the board.
“This reduction has been deduced by reviewing their data which indicates that 1,063 charges were laid in the first two quarters of 2019 compared to 1,830 charges for the same period in 2018. The reduced charge volume is anticipated to result in a significant reduction in fine revenue.”
Crawford asked for a reason for the reduction and what the anticipated number of charges would be for the remainder of the year.
“It’s difficult for me to predict the future,” said Insp. Veronica Eaton, Orillia OPP commander. “To give you a forecast or prediction of what (those numbers) will be at the end of the year — I can’t tell you.”
She added she is hopeful it will increase.
Eaton said the number of RIDE checks and other time-consuming matters could be a factor in the reduced number of fines.
“(Officers) are tied up with preparing packages for bail hearings (and) there have been lengthier investigations,” she said. “Their focus has been demanded somewhere else.”
The figures currently represent a shortfall of at least $63,000. If that trend continues, “we have to do a significant budget consideration for council,” said Mayor Steve Clarke.
The board passed a motion directing Eaton to report back by Sept. 30 on a rationale for the decrease and projections for the rest of the year.