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Police budget: board gives chief a target to shoot for

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Troy Shantz

Sarnia Police Chief Norm Hansen was given until this week to sharpen his pencil.

The chief recently unveiled a draft operating budget that packed a 7.1% spending increase next year, which didn’t sit well with members of the Sarnia Police Services Board.

At a hastily called meeting last week the board approved measures to lower the hike to 6.25%. They include staggering the hiring of four new officers and spreading the cost of station renovations over two years, instead of one.

Police Chief Norm Hansen

The board also told Hansen to keep on going and shoot for a 5% increase.

After the meeting, the Chief said his staff would “do their best.”

“We’re just going to have to pore over line by line and see where we can make reductions,” Hansen said. “We didn’t really build a lot of fat into the budget to trim.”

Originally, four new police recruits were to start training in January. The revision calls for two to begin in September, saving $122,400 or 0.51% of the budget increase.

Police station renovations estimated at $100,000 were slashed by $80,000, saving another 0.33%.

Board member Mike Stark came to the Oct. 17 special meeting armed with $541,000 in proposed cuts, including to overtime, awards and legal fees.

But the board rejected them all.

“(Staff) are the people that know the trends and what has to be projected,” said board member Joanne Rogers. “I just don’t feel that it’s our job to go through the budget line by line and determine what needs to be cut, or not.”

Board member Paul Wiersma warned hasty cuts now could add costs to future budgets later.

Salaries and benefits account for the largest portion (2.77%) of the proposed increase, according to a report tabled by the Chief.

Staff salary and wages make up 87% total police expenditures, and this is the final year of a three-year collective agreement. No contract is in place for 2020.

Upgrading city police to the next generation of 911 service will cost another $405,000, accounting for 1.7% of the spending increase.

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