City hall ready for imposed RCMP pay raise

Some B.C. municipalities say they were surprised by sudden pay raise given to the federal police force.

Nanaimo officials will have to hurry to write in a pay increase for Mounties for the 2012 budget.

The raise was revealed in last month’s federal budget.

Unlike other B.C. municipalities, which have stated they were unaware pay increases were being announced, Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan said council and staff anticipated the pay raises, but weren’t certain when they would have to be written into the budget.

“I was aware the federal government cancelled the RCMP pay raise a couple of years ago and my understanding was that it had a direct effect on the morale of the RCMP at that time,” said Ruttan. “That raise then went into limbo, and suddenly a different raise has to be written into our budget, which has to be finalized by law May 15.”

The issue of retroactive pay based on that broken promise is before the courts, and city staff have set money aside should the courts rule in favour of the RCMP.

The federal and provincial governments spent months negotiating a new RCMP deal leading up to the March 21 signing of a new 20-year contract.

As the deadline to ratify a contact neared, provincial Justice Minister Shirley Bond stated a provincial police force was not out of the question if the RCMP became too expensive. The new contract was ratified by Bond and federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.

But Peter Fassbender, mayor of Langley and representative for the Union of B.C. Municipalities during the contract talks, said B.C. municipalities were blindsided by the imposed pay lifts that weren’t part of the discussion.

Fassbender reportedly sent a letter on behalf of the UBCM to Toews expressing “our complete shock and surprise” at the pay increases, warning that there may be “significant backlash” from councils and taxpayers.

Bond said she was assured by Ottawa that administrative savings totaling $195 million could offset the raises, although she added she is looking for clarification.

“I am deeply concerned about any potential impacts on our municipalities and that this information came as a surprise,” said Bond.

It is expected RCMP members across the province will receive an immediate 1.5-per cent pay increase, followed by the same increase in 2013 and 2014.

Ruttan said it isn’t yet certain how much that will translate to in Nanaimo, the Island’s largest RCMP detachment.

“What amount will have to be paid in this fiscal year, I’m not sure,” said Ruttan. “But our staff anticipated something, so it won’t be that onerous.”

Brian Clemens, Nanaimo’s director of finance, said his staff are preparing a new RCMP budget for 2012 that will go before council in time for the May 15 deadline.

“There’s the retro pay issue and we’re prepared for that,” said Clemens. “And when the RCMP gave us our preliminary figures for this year, they included an amount of a per cent-and-a-half as part of the calculation of what they thought their pay would be this year, so it has already been factored in.”

Clemens added that as part of the new contract, municipalities would incur additional policing costs that would also impact the city’s budget. Those costs have yet to be tallied, but it’s likely they won’t affect operational spending until two years from now, giving council time to adjust future budgets.

Typically, the city budgets for only 94 per cent of the RCMP’s estimated amount, because the local detachment rarely operates at a full complement of staff.

Clemens said with new additional costs, the city might now budget at a higher percentage to ensure costs are met.

“We need to put all of these issues into a pot and see how much money we need to fund the RCMP this year,” said Clemens. “The RCMP will be one of a number of things we bring to council in terms of the final budget amount.”

Despite growing costs, Ruttan added he supports a raise for RCMP members, but said it should be up to the federal government to cover the costs.

Ruttan added there has been talk about the potential for a municipal force, but that he supports the RCMP.

“I’m opposed to a municipal force in Nanaimo,” he said. “We’re getting good value for our money.”

Already approved in the 2012 municipal budget is the addition of five new Mounties and two full-time municipal employees, part of an increase in police services that will ultimately see 24 new general duty officers in Nanaimo over five years beginning in 2010.

Of the $118.9-million operating budget for the city, police services currently account for $23.6 million.

– With files from Jeff Nagel, Black Press

reporter2@nanaimobulletin.com