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Vancouver police budget proposals exceed city hall recommendation by millions

City staff’s recommendation equates to $5.4 million increase over 2021 budget
Police Chief Adam Palmer and the Vancouver Police Board will meet Thursday to review and adopt an operating budget proposal for next year. Screenshot
The Vancouver Police Department has drafted two proposals for next year’s operating budget — one at $325 million, the other at $328 million — that significantly exceed the amount recommended by city hall’s finance team.

City staff has recommended the Vancouver Police Board adopt an operating budget for 2022 of $321 million in order to meet city council’s directive to keep property taxes at five per cent or less for next year.

The $321 million would be an increase of $5.4 million over the $316 million council approved in December 2020 for this year’s police budget — but $3.9 million less than the $325 million the VPD wants for next year to maintain existing service levels, and $6.5 million less if new investments were included.

The proposals were outlined in a VPD report released Tuesday that goes before the Vancouver Police Board Thursday for decision. Whatever budget proposal the board chooses will be forwarded to council, which begins deliberations in December on the city’s entire operating and capital budgets.

The report pointed out city staff’s proposed budget only supports budget increases for certain fixed costs and includes a reduction of $1.4 million to hold additional vacancies, which equates to approximately 15 fewer police recruits.

“The board and the VPD have not agreed to this proposed budget or city-imposed reduction,” said the report.

The VPD’s proposed $325 million request includes an increase for fixed, contractual and third-party costs, with the department saying “this is the minimum budget to allow the VPD to maintain the current existing service level of public safety for the people and businesses in Vancouver.”

“There are no new or additional staffing positions included in this proposal,” the report said.

The $328 million request includes funding for additional staff as per the recommendations of a department operational review done years ago — and approved by a previous council — and additional funding for community policing centres.

The VPD’s authorized strength would increase by an additional 20 police officers and 10 civilians under this scenario.

Throughout the year, the VPD has reported that it is running a deficit and a most recent estimate is that it would exceed $7 million by year’s end — the first time in 16 years the department has been in a deficit situation.

In addition, the police board awaits a decision by Wayne Rideout, B.C.’s director of police services, who is reviewing council’s decision in December 2020 not to include $5.6 million in the VPD’s 2021 budget request.

As V.I.A. reported Monday, Rideout’s decision isn’t expected until January.

On Monday, members of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, Pivot Legal Society and Defund 604 Network released results of a “people’s budget” that found 86 per cent of respondents want 50 per cent of the VPD’s budget reinvested in peer-led community services and programs.

Thursday’s police board meeting begins at 1 p.m.