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WHEREAS the Government of Alberta committed to reviewing the current police costing model as part of their election platform in advance of the 2019 election; and
WHEREAS there have been recent increases in rural crime in Alberta and the Government of Alberta has acknowledged this as a priority; and
WHEREAS in September 2019, the Government of Alberta began consultations on a test police costing model with the 291 municipalities who currently receive frontline policing from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) through the Provincial Police Services Agreement; and
WHEREAS the purpose of the model is to develop a process through which the province recovers a share of frontline policing costs from municipalities; and
WHEREAS the proposed formula would allow the province to recover between 15% ($34.9 million) and 70% ($162.8 million) of policing costs by requiring each municipality to contribute using a formula based on 70% equalized assessment and 30% population; and
WHEREAS equalized assessment is not a stable measure and does not translate directly to tax revenue or a municipality’s wealth, especially due to the struggles that many municipalities face in collecting non-residential taxes; and
WHEREAS the proposed model will download policing costs onto municipalities with no apparent improvement to service levels or local input into policing; and
WHEREAS the model does not consider the contributions that municipalities already make to policing, including community peace officers, enhanced policing positions, and infrastructure; and
WHEREAS implementing the test model will affect the quality of policing as municipalities may be forced to re-allocate funding from supplementary services to support front-line policing; and
WHEREAS the increased costs of the test model, combined with other challenges currently facing municipalities, could have serious implications across the province and potentially threaten the viability of some municipalities;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta urge the Government of Alberta to engage in further consultation with municipalities on the police costing test model to examine options to meet the Government of Alberta’s goal of reducing policing costs without negatively impacting policing service delivery or municipal financial viability.
In Alberta, policing service for rural municipalities and towns with populations less than 5000 is provided under the Provincial Police Service Agreement at no direct cost to those municipalities. The Government of Alberta contracts the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) as its provincial police service. Cities and towns with populations greater than 5000 are responsible for providing their own police service.
The current costing model is 15 years old and over the past ten years, discussions amongst stakeholders has been that the model needs to be reviewed to better reflect current realities with policing needs in Alberta; particularly, a multi-factor police funding model and policing grants that better reflect the needs of different-sized municipalities. The Government of Alberta included a review of the current police costing model as a commitment in their platform in advance of the 2019 provincial election. As a result, the Government has produced a proposed police costing model and is currently seeking feedback from stakeholders such as the RMA.
The purpose of the model is to develop a process through which the province recovers a share of frontline policing costs from municipalities. The proposed formula would allow the province to recover between 15% ($34.9 million) and 70% ($162.8 million) of policing costs. It would require each municipality to contribute using a formula based on 70% equalized assessment and 30% population with modifiers for shadow populations or higher than average crime severity indexes. Using Rocky View County as an example, the yearly contribution based on this formula could range from $1,995,375 (15%) to $9,307,941 (70%).
There are several key concerns identified by RMA with the proposed costing model. There has been no discussion or information from the Government of Alberta on how the proposed police costing model would enhance service levels or local input into policing. It is a clear downloading of costs to municipalities with no consideration for municipal context, specific needs, or the ability to have input into front-line service delivery.
A police costing model should be population-based, as policing is a “people service” and population is strongly linked to the level of police services required in a municipality. Basing the costing purely on the “ability to pay” with no corresponding input into service delivery could have unintended consequences of reducing police service in rural areas.
The model does not take into consideration the contributions that municipalities already make to policing, such as community peace officers, enhanced policing positions, or infrastructure contributions. As an example, for the 2019/2020 RCMP billing cycle, Rocky View County will pay approximately $564,400 for three enhanced policing positions and a watch clerk position for the RCMP. Other municipalities are making similar contributions. It may become uneconomical for municipalities to continue to support these positions if the funding costs increase dramatically.
While RMA and its members understand the fiscal challenges facing the province, requiring municipalities to contribute further to police costs has significant cumulative effects in combination with other challenges municipalities are facing in relation to assessment, taxation and grants. While the test model may appear to be manageable for most municipalities when considered in isolation, it could have major detrimental effects when combined with other issues currently taking place.
The purpose of this resolution is for RMA and its members to seek further consultation from the Government of Alberta with respect to this issue to seek a solution that meets the government’s goals of reducing cost of policing without creating insurmountable burdens to municipalities or negatively impacting policing service delivery.
RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.
Justice and Solicitor General
The Government of Alberta’s new police funding model will constitute a total increase in rural police funding of more than $286 million over five years with every dollar of the additional funds invested in front-line policing. Under the cost-sharing terms in the Provincial Police Service Agreement (PPSA), Alberta pays 70 per cent of policing costs and the federal government covers the remaining 30 per cent. With the additional investment from municipalities, the federal share of the PPSA will increase as well. Revenue collected through the new model will be invested in policing, leading to a substantial increase in Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers and civilian positions throughout the province. This investment places priority on adding uniformed patrol officers in rural RCMP detachments and will also add members to specialized RCMP units that dismantle organized crime, drug trafficking, investigate auto and scrap metal theft. New civilian positions will assist with administrative tasks and investigative support to improve response times and help ensure officers have the support network they need to protect Albertans by spending more time on roads and in communities.
Stakeholders such as the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) and the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) have been asking the Alberta government for many years to address police funding. Under the Police Act, the province provided policing to some municipalities at no direct cost to those municipalities. These municipalities primarily included towns of 5,000 population or less, Metis settlements, as well as all municipal districts and counties regardless of their population. Alberta contracts the RCMP as its provincial police service.
The engagement process:
The new police-funding model:
The Government of Alberta response indicates that adequate consultation occurred with municipal stakeholders during the development of the police costing mode in late 2019. While consultation did take place, RMA does not consider the original test model, or the final model to be implemented in 2020, as adequate to improve police service in rural and small urban communities in the province. RMA has the following concerns with the model that should be addressed through further consultation with municipal stakeholders:
The examples above are intended to demonstrate that although consultation did take place in relation to the development of a police costing model, the test model, the consultation process, and the final model did not adequately consider rural municipal concerns relating to service levels or local input. The current model has the potential to impact both local police service and municipal viability and does require further consultation. RMA assigns this resolution a status of Intent Not Met and will continue to request further amendments to the model moving forward.