Region’s Taxpayers Deserve Full and Open Accoutability for Multi-Million-Dollar Police Budget Deficit and Former Police Chief’s $870,000 Retirement Package
A Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted February 22nd, 2018 on Niagara At Large
When Niagara regional councillors hold their next meeting of the whole council this coming March 1st, let’s hope that they don’t treat us to another three hours of pillaring the Mayor of Pelham and his council over their finances.
We could also do without another 10 to 20 minutes of Niagara Falls regional councillor Bob Gale reading out a prepared list of glowing achievement – interspersed with pot shots at the news media and calls for apologies from critics – that a Niagara Regional Police Services Board chaired by none other than him has apparently racked up over the past few years.
At the coming March 1st meeting, it would be nice if our regional councillors could focus more attention on other issues that matter to people who live, work and do business, and pay taxes in Niagara, like Niagara regional police budget.
One of the issues they should focus at least a few hours of attention on it is a Niagara regional police budget that at least some of us worry may be more of a “financial train wreck” than Port Colborne regional councillor David Barrick, who also sits on the Niagara Police Services Board Police, along with Gale and Niagara regional chair Al Caslin, said the Town of Pelham is at that council meeting earlier this February.
Contrary to the creative economics Gale was employing, however wittingly or unwittingly, at the last regional council meeting to make his claim that contrary to a media report, the Police Services Board is not now looking at a deficit of around $2 million or less, it is looking at a deficit of $7.4 million.
This board, chaired by Gale, is now faced with a $7.4 million deficit that, in this municipal election year, it wants to wrestle down to something that may look more palatable by chewing in to reserve funds and approaching the regional council for another $2.35 million to perform what looks to at least some of us as a shell game they want to play with our tax money.
The Niagara Police Services Board’s own agenda, from its own February 8th meeting (which I will post below), lists where Gale, Barrick, Caslin and company are proposing to go to get the money it needs to make their budget look better.
It is equivalent to one of us raiding our rainy day and retirement funds and maybe even some of the cookie jars we have hiding around the house with cash in it to make our financial picture look a little better this year.
When Barrick – the guy who has so relentlessly led the attack on Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn and his town council over their finances – was asked at a Port Colborne city council meeting earlier this February about what was going on with the Niagara Regional Police budget and the board’s plans to deal with the deficit, one of his answers was; “Quite frankly, the Region is flush with cash. They have over $140 million in reserves? Absolutely not.”
Oh, really Councillor Barrick!
If we are so flush with cash, then n when am I and when so many of the rest of us who just received our notices for paying our property taxes this year going to see a nice big tax cut since about 30 to 40 per cent of what we pay goes to regional services.
When are we going to see more of that money going to affordable housing or building a decent public transit system or repairing or improving some of our infrastructure?
Quite frankly Councillor Barrick, I don’t want to see those reserves sacked because that money is there, in no small part, if we need it to pay the costs of responding to unforeseen changes or emergencies – not to make your police budget look better during an election year.
Let’s also note forget that $870,000 out of the police budge was used to pay for a retirement package for former Niagara Regional Police Chief Jeff McGuire, who left the force last year, about three years before the end of his contract. He took this retirement package when, contrary to recent suggestions from members of the police board, that he wanted to go, he recently said in a statement that he would have stayed.
On this specific matter, I believe that the following Facebook message, posted this February 21st by Peter Gill, a retired member of the Niagara Regional Police Service.
So there is a meeting of the whole Niagara regional council scheduled for this coming up this March 1st, and I am sure I am not the only taxpaying resident of this region who wants to see members of this council getting up and asking some very pointed questions about the police budget deficit, the former police chief’s retirement package and other matters that have to do with how responsibly Gale, Barrick, Caslin and company are handling tens-of-millions of our money.
Discussion and debate over this matter, which truly is a regional government matter, should be conducted with at least as much vigour and for at least as long as any discussion or debate over the Town of Pelham’s finances.
We have a whole week before that meeting to contact the mayors of our local municipalities and the directly elected representatives who sit together on the regional council and insist on such a discussion and debate.
We have had almost a year now of Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn and his town council being pressed – relentlessly and over and over and over again- to answer for how they manage their financial affairs.
It is high time that Gale, Barrick and Caslin, the three members on the Police Services Board who also sit on the regional council, are pressed just as hard on their management of the tens of millions of dollars of our money they are responsible for each year as members of that board.
Finally, let’s hope that a majority of regional councillors vote no to giving this police board, as presently constituted, one more dollar of our tax money.
What follows is a section of the Niagara Police Services Board agenda from February 8th that lists where the board is looking for money to reduce what is a $7.4 million deficit.
REGIONAL MUNICIPALITY OF NIAGARA POLICE SERVICES BOARD
FINANCE COMMITTEE PUBLIC AGENDA
Thursday, February 8, 2018 at 9:30 am ….
2. 2017 Year End Financial Operating Results for the Niagara Regional Police Service and Board – Service report 31/2018 dated February 1, 2018 providing the Board with the 2017 yearend financial operating results for the NRPS and Board.
That the Committee approve the following recommendation:
That subject to the approval of Regional Council of the Consolidated Regional Year-End Transfer Report, the Police Services Board:
Page #2 Finance Committee Public Agenda – February 8, 2018
1. Receive the report for information;
2. Approve a transfer of $2,665,950 from the Contingency Reserve to offset a portion of the year-end deficit due to collective agreement settlements;
3. Approve a transfer of $1,000,000 from the Employee Future Benefits Reserve to offset the cost of retirements and settlements;
4. Approve a transfer of $800,714 from the Accumulated Sick Leave Reserve to offset the additional pay-out of sick credits;
5. Approve a transfer of $92,270 from the Police Services Board contingency reserve to offset the Board’s net deficit; and
6. Request that Regional Council fund the net deficit of $2,351,871 resulting primarily from the implementation of the arbitrated collective agreements.
3. False Alarm User Fees – The Service will provide a verbal update on the status of their review of the false alarm user fees, consideration of alternate practices, and how the NRPS responds to these types of calls for service. (No background documentation is attached).
To view a copy of this agenda list with the Police Service Board logo on it, click on – https://www.niagarapolice.ca/en/contentresources/resources/whoweare/Finance-Agenda—Public-February-8-2018.pdf
To read a related commentary Niagara At Large posted this February, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2018/02/10/the-flying-monkeys-were-back-this-february-8th-at-niagaras-regional-council/ .
If you want the names and contact information for the mayors and directly elected members representing your municipality on Niagara’s regional council, click on – https://www.niagararegion.ca/government/council/profiles/default.aspx .
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