Squamish needs to prepare itself for a future serving of police officer salaries, warns an official.
On Tuesday (Jan. 7), District of Squamish council sat down to tackle the 2014 municipal budget, with the largest slice of the pie going to the Squamish RCMP. The policing bill is estimated to come in at $4.5 million.
Policing costs have long plagued the municipality. In 2012, the district’s RCMP payment was bumped into a higher bracket when the community’s population topped 15,000 residents. Starting last year, the district was required to foot 90 per cent of the total contract — 20 per cent more than in 2012 — with the province picking up the rest.
While district officials debate cutting an RCMP administrative position, shaving approximately $66,587 off the 2014 municipal budget, council needs to look long term, Coun. Doug Race said.
The RCMP department currently has 23 officers, two less than in 2009-’10, said Neil Cross, the Sea to Sky regional detachment head. At the same time, the community’s population has rapidly increased, he said, noting Squamish boasts one of the fastest growing populations in B.C.
As a result, Squamish RCMP officers’ case loads are among the highest in B.C., trailing only Penticton and Fort St. John, Cross said. Squamish officers’ workload is 25 per cent above the B.C. average, he noted. Cross estimated the bill per additional officer sits at approximately $180,000.
Absorbing the cost of officers is something district officials should start considering, Race said. By 2020, Squamish’s population is anticipated to double. In the future the municipality needs to be prepared to foot the bill for additional police officers, Race said, noting it may soon be time to bite the bullet.
The local police complement won’t necessarily have to double with the population, Coun. Ron Sander noted.
“Everything we are talking about here is adding to the taxpayers,” he added.
Mayor Rob Kirkham added an examination of Squamish’s future police force needs to be on staff’s budgetary priority list.