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Analysis: How wage increase for Vancouver police affects 2024 city budget

VPD union reaches tentative agreement for cumulative 9% increase over two years.
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The Vancouver Police Department’s budget increased this year under Mayor Ken Sim and his ABC Vancouver-dominated council, who now must decide on the department’s 2024 budget request, which includes funds for increased wages.

How does a wage increase for Vancouver police officers affect the city’s 2024 budget?

There’s a short, obvious answer and a longer incomplete and complicated one.

The short answer: If ratified, the tentative agreement reached Oct. 31 by the VPD union with both the Vancouver Police Board and City of Vancouver will mean a 4.5 per cent wage increase retroactive to Jan. 1 of this year and an additional 4.5 per cent boost next year.

So, yes, it will cost taxpayers more to fund police.

The longer answer: What those wage increases amount to in terms of millions of dollars to pay 1,400-plus officers hasn’t been finalized — and it’s not as simple as multiplying those percentages by number of officers because they are at different ranks and pay scales.

But it is clear the money required to cover the two years will be more than $10 million, perhaps in the neighbourhood of $14 million, although neither the city nor the police department wanted to confirm a number until the ratification vote is completed.

Ratification vote concludes Dec. 7

The only helpful number Glacier Media could find in the various budget documents available online is $16.4 million.

But — and there’s always a “but” when explaining budgets — the $16.4 million is not only for “additional funding driven by estimated increases due to anticipated collective agreement settlements, salary and related benefit adjustments.”

The $16.4 million also includes “fixed costs such as fleet expenses, utilities and other expenditures,” according to a document that goes before city council Dec. 5 at a special meeting to discuss the 2024 budget.

The Dec. 5 date is an interesting one because police officers have until Dec. 7 to vote on the tentative agreement. All signs are that the agreement will be approved, according to union president Ralph Kaisers.

Which leads to this question: Would council vote on the 2024 budget before learning details of the ratification vote?

Another question: Is timing of the vote relevant, when the police board and city have already committed to the increases?

That is expected to be discussed at the Dec. 5 meeting.

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Allan Black and members of the Vancouver Police Board approved Nov. 23 the VPD's 2024 budget request of $415.9 million. Photo Mike Howell

Police board supports VPD budget request

Meanwhile, here’s some more information to further confuse budget watchers…

Last week, the Vancouver Police Board approved the VPD’s 2024 budget request of $415.9 million. That’s a net amount.

The $415.9 is roughly $6 million more than what the city’s finance team is comfortable with, and more than $42 million than the department began operating with in 2023. (More details on why the VPD requested an additional $6 million is outlined in this Glacier Media story from last week.)

This $6-million discrepancy sets up a test for council, which is led by Mayor Ken Sim and his seven ABC Vancouver colleagues, who are big supporters of the police department; the VPD union also endorsed the party in the 2022 election campaign.

Part one of that test came Tuesday when council received a report revealing the VPD was expected to run a $3.6-million deficit this year connected to overtime costs related to the East Hastings Street decampment and the Israel-Hamas conflict.

OneCity Coun. Christine Boyle was absent for the vote, and Green Party Coun. Pete Fry abstained from voting, with the rest of council agreeing to a staff recommendation to cover the $3.6 million and an additional $3.3 million for Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services.

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Ralph Kaisers is president of the Vancouver Police Union. Photo Mike Howell

$486-million budget by 2028

What do all these numbers mean?

As mentioned up top, it will cost more to pay for a police service in Vancouver next year.

How much more?

To be determined.

How much of it will contribute to an expected property tax hike?

Also to be determined.

Whatever the result, expect the VPD’s budget to increase year after year.

As Glacier Media reported Nov. 23, the VPD predicts it will need an operating budget of $486 million by 2028. That’s almost half a billion dollars, the majority of it going to salaries and benefits.

How much does a cop make?

If the tentative agreement is ratified, a constable with five years on the job can expect to earn $116,000 in the first year of the new contract and see that salary increase to almost $122,000 in 2024.

“We’re going to be number one here pretty quick,” said Kaisers, referring to Vancouver having the highest paid police officers in Canada. “It’s huge for recruiting…and it’s also important for retaining people.”

Improved maternity benefits and a better psychological services plan are also part of the contract.

The Dec. 5 budget meeting at city hall begins at 9:30 a.m.

mhowell@glaciermedia.ca

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