Plea to divert police funding towards social services fails as Barrie council continues to deliberate 2021 budget

Evening ends with tentative 0.91 percent increase to property taxes

A call to divert five percent of the Barrie Police Services budget towards county housing initiatives failed to sway council on Monday night, even as budget deliberations continue.

During Monday night’s budget deliberations, Councillor Keenan Aylwin made an impassioned plea that council examine diverting five percent of the Barrie Police Service’s Budget towards the County of Simcoe’s regional housing first program and the federal rapid housing initiative projects.

Aylwin pointed out 2020 saw a lot of things, not just the COVID-19 pandemic. “We also saw the world’s largest protest movement in support of Black Lives Matter. It’s launched a lot of important conversations about police accountability and police funding,” he said during Monday night’s meeting. “We saw calls from the public to reallocate police funding to social services to address the root causes of crime.”

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While many around the virtual council table agreed that there is a definite need to support social housing initiatives across the region, it was conceded that cannot yet come at the expense of the police service. “This takes some time. It takes the time because you’ve got to build up the alternate capacity,” said Mayor Jeff Lehman, adding that action will be taken once that capacity is in place. “Make no bones about it. It needs to occur. The police want to be part of that occurring. Council wants it to happen.”

A further request from Councillor Aylwin to allocate $2,000,000 towards county housing programs without any impact to the police budget was also defeated during Monday’s deliberations, as Mayor Lehman pointed towards a $30 million plan in the works to create social housing in Barrie.

Meanwhile, council expects to reconvene at 7 p.m. Tuesday evening to continue debating the 2021 operating and capital budget. The evening ended with the city hewing the operating budget, the portion supported by taxpayer funds, to 0.91 percent. At the beginning of the five hour meeting, that number stood at 3.59.

While the capital budget is expected to be debated Tuesday, final approval for both documents does not come until Monday, January 25.