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City Budget: Police budget, transit funding approved for 2020
REGINA -- After hearing from nearly 40 delegations on Monday night, city council returned to Henry Baker Hall on Tuesday for a second night of budget deliberations.
Council is proposing a 3.25 per cent increase to the mill rate.
Councillors voted on the Regina Police Service's 2020 budget and city transit.
City council has voted to approve the proposed Regina Board of Police Commissioners budget for 2020.
The proposed budget included estimated gross operating expenditures of $96,028,900 and revenues of $10,399,600 which results in a net operating budget of $85,629,300.
The 2020 net operating budget is up $3,125,000 from the 2019 budget, a 3.79 per cent rise.
Four frontline constable positions would be added to police staff in 2020, along with six civilian positions.
Police also requested $600,000 to fund “Grey Cup Special Duty” assignments and equipment expenses.
Ward 10 councillor Jerry Flegel began the night with a motion not to approve the proposed police budget as it stands.
Councillors questioned Regina Police Chief Evan Bray about the budget contents, mainly focusing on the number of frontline officers and the impact more officers in certain areas would have.
“I do think it’s a good discussion to have, I’m very happy to hear council having the discussion about some of the challenges we have with resources. I think this is just some good conversation for us to have moving forward as well,” said Bray.
Bray said the police service currently has around 171 officers per 100,000 people in the city. He said the city needs around 20 more officers per 100,000 people.
“I think it’s safe to say that we are hoping that we can take positive steps forward in the next few years to add resources to get us up to what is an adequate level for our city,” said Bray.
Any additional funding the police service received would be best put towards staffing according to Bray, including putting more officers on the street, calling frontline staff a priority. Mayor Fougere said any additional funding for police would come from a 0.25 per cent mill rate increase.
“The issue of having more officers, we would all agree that is the case, is what is the mechanism to get it done?” said Fougere. “That’s a police budget issue, not a taxpayer issue, so I would have a concern about that, and I think others may have had that as well.”
Bray added the proposed budget was put forth to council with realistic numbers for what RPS needs, taking into account the financial climate in the city.
Councillor Joel Murray motioned to refer the questions and concerns raised during the deliberations to the 2021 police budget. Council asked for considerations and revisions in the next budget that better reflect the challenges and pressures facing the Regina Police Service.
Council subsequently approved the Police budget for 2020 after another round of questions for Chief Bray about general policing issues and challenges. The budget passed eight to three.
Transit route changes
Funding for a three year pilot program for an airport transit route, taking passengers to and from YQR was also approved.
Councillor Andrew Stevens moved for the project, costing the city $144,000 in 2020.
City administration's initial recommendations for an airport route include service from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., and 4 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Mayor Fougere voted against this project's approval.
“My view was that we don’t have a strong business case, we haven’t concluded negotiations with the airport on longer term funding, we haven’t talked about the Hotel Association being involved as well. They may benefit directly from this one,” said Fougere. “Until we have those partnerships in place, locked down, I thought it was premature.”
Council also decided to fund a transit route for the Westerra neighbourhood that currently does not have any transit options, at a cost of $98,000.
Councillor O’Donnell put the motion forward to increase road safety, due to residents in the area needing to travel by foot on Pinkie Rd. to get to the closest bus stop.
Many councillors spoke about the necessity for new developments to have transit routes, and passed the motion for inclusion in this year's budget.
Council voted in favour of a budget increase for para-transit services, based on a motion by Councillor Lori Bresciani.
She moved that an additional $50,000 be allocated to the operating budget for para-transit services to reduce the customer wait list.
Council added for the city to write to the province for additional support for para-transit services.
Bresciani also motioned that an additional $209,000 go towards a budget for the 60 Arcola Express route, to provide bus service between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., Monday to Friday. Revenue generated from this route would result in a net cost of $167,000.
City Administration recommended no immediate action on this route, because it will be included in the city’s Transit Master Plan in 2021. Council defeated the motion six to five.
The funding for these transit projects will come out of the city reserve budget.
Budget deliberations will continue at City Hall at 1 p.m. on Friday.
CTV News Regina's Colton Wiens and Brendan Ellis were live at city council.