Victoria council has spent the past few weeks reviewing the city’s draft 2022 budget in preparation for public consultation. In those discussions, the Victoria Police Department budget has provoked the most debate.
In its 2022 provisional budget, VicPD is asking to spend $63.39 million, approximately $4.18 million more than it budgeted for 2021.
The proposed 7.05-per-cent increase would let VicPD give pay raises and bring on new hires – six officers and four civilians.
The pay hikes account for nearly $1.62 million, while new hires amount to $1.09 million. Still, in an Oct. 26 special committee of the whole meeting, Chief Const. Del Manak told councillors the proposed budget barely covers the department’s needs.
“The budget is not adequately addressing wait times for police,” Manak told council members and staff. “We have a highly reactive police organization right now – one that is faltering.”
The requested $1.09 million in additional staff includes an Island Health co-responder team, a records specialist, a business intelligence analyst, a civilian front desk alternative, a cultural liaison officer and an assertive community treatment officer.
As discussions about VicPD’s portion of the budget continued on Nov. 2, members of council appeared divided on whether the department’s proposals should be questioned in the first place.
Expressing his support for the well-being of Victoria police officers, Coun. Stephen Andrew urged his fellow councillors to “lay down political differences … and look at the human side of this.”
“I fear that if we don’t provide resources to our Victoria police department, we’re eventually going to be in such a crisis that we won’t have one,” he said.
In response, Coun. Sarah Potts said discussing municipal decisions should not be perceived as political.
“It’s challenging to hear over and over again that because we talk about the police budget, we don’t care about police,” she said. “It is absolutely fair for us to talk about how we deliver community safety.”
Couns. Ben Isitt, Jeremy Loveday and Sharmarke Dubow expressed similar support for budget discussions.
Ultimately, council decided to seek direct public feedback on the new positions, by requesting that related questions be included on the online public survey for the overall city budget, which was made available on Nov. 9.
The public can also bring questions or share their thoughts about budget items this Wednesday (6:30 p.m., Nov. 17) during a virtual budget town hall. The feedback received will help inform council’s budget decisions.
Victoria council will reconvene in the new year to finalize the city budget for 2022.
Information about providing input on the 2022 draft budget can be found online at engage.victoria.ca.
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