Police chief cites ‘unavoidable increases’ in 2023 for a proposed budget increase of over 7%

Police want to hire five new sworn officers and four new civilian employees

The 2023 draft Barrie police budget contains a request for $63.2 million in municipal funding, which is an increase of 7.28 per cent.

At a police services board meeting on Thursday, Police Chief Kimberley Greenwood explained some of the factors for what she called “unavoidable increases.”

Examples she used included increases to long-term disability and life insurance premiums, contractual salary increases in January and July, an increase in employment insurance premiums, as well as an increase to health and dental premiums.

“If we were just to stand still as a service without increasing our current year’s staffing numbers, salaries in 2023 would result in a budgetary increase of 3.5 per cent,” explained Greenwood. “The related benefits will require a further increase of 1.7 per cent.”

“In total, salaries, benefits, overtime and using our 2022 staffing levels would result in an unavoidable increase in the 2023 overall budget, to 6.7 per cent over what we see in 2022.”

After holding the line on hiring new officers for the past two years, the Chief is seeking five new sworn officers for a total of 250 and an additional four civilian workers for a total of 125.

“Our priorities include our ability to deliver an effective police service, and the stress and member wellness concerns related to unreasonable workloads.”

Greenwood said the percentage of the Barrie police budget on the City of Barrie’s overall budget has been declining “despite the ever-rising population of the City of Barrie.”

“In 2011, we (Barrie police) comprised just over 25 per cent of the city’s budget, and we currently sit at 22 per cent of the city’s budget.”

The proposed budget was not met with indifference from members of the police board.

“When you see a number like seven per cent, that’s a big number, but it’s a growing city,” said Mayor Jeff Lehman. “Just like with city budgets, anytime we ask the public for more money, I tell them what they’re getting and I think the choice this year is very clear, that we are going to return the city to a sworn compliment (of officers) to ensure we’re answering calls. There are situations where our resources are very stretched and response times aren’t what we want them to be for certain situations.”

Board member Arif Khan also championed the need for more officers.

“The service continues to be stretched thin and looks internally on how to shuffle and how to make the best of what was available,” he said.

The budget must be approved by city council.

The city will begin to tackle its operating and capital budget early in the new year, and that’s when the Barrie Police Service will present its budget to council.

When the final numbers are hammered out, Chief Greenwood will not be around for the outcome, as she is retiring at the end of the year.

Nor will Mayor Jeff Lehman, as he decided not to seek a fourth term in the October municipal election.