+ RMA Rural Municipalities
of Alberta

Resolution 2-19F

Government of Alberta’s Police Costing Test Model

Date:
November 1, 2019
Expiry Date:
December 1, 2022
Active Status:
Active
Sponsors:
Rocky View County
Year:
2019
Convention:
Fall
Category:
Community Services
Status:
Intent Not Met
Vote Results:
Carried
Preamble:

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;

Operative Clause:

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.

Member Background:

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 Background:

RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.

Government Response:

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:

  • We proposed a new police-funding model for a variety of reasons. The current funding model is not sustainable. Stakeholders have been asking the Alberta government for many years to address inequities in the funding model. Increased crime across rural Alberta is placing added pressure on the police and justice system. At the same time, nearly 20 per cent of Albertans have not directly paid for the front-line policing costs in their community. The new police-funding model will not only address this inequity, but it will also help direct needed resources to policing and justice priorities in rural Alberta.
  • Engagement on the police-funding model with stakeholders, including leaders in rural municipalities, took place between September and October of 2019. The perspectives gathered during the engagement, received via correspondence addressed to the ministry, and heard during Minister Schweitzer’s tour of rural municipalities this fall were included in the discussions.
  • Under the test model, small and rural communities (i.e., those receiving RCMP provincial policing) that had not previously paid for front-line policing would begin contributing a portion of the costs. We considered stakeholder views when finalizing the model. On November 7, 2019, Minister Schweitzer held a webinar for municipal representatives to discuss feedback gathered on the funding model. To summarize:
    • Municipalities want equalized assessment to have a lower weight than in the test model (where it is at 70 per cent);
    • Municipalities want the funding model to factor in detachment distance and currently funded positions (e.g. enhanced policing positions);
    • Municipalities are currently completing budgets for 2020 and forecasting for future years; there is a strong desire to have phased-in implementation of changes and for the percentage of costs to be below the 15 per cent threshold presented in the test model;
    • Revenue gathered from the funding model should be reinvested in the communities that are paying for front-line policing; and
    • It is critical for municipalities to have greater input into identifying policing priorities.

The new police-funding model:

  • Small and rural communities, with some exceptions, will begin contributing a portion of their front-line policing costs in 2020. This new cost-sharing partnership will bring small and rural municipalities into line with larger communities and cities. To give communities time to adjust, the new funding model is being phased in: communities will contribute 10 per cent of policing costs in 2020, followed by 15 per cent in 2021, 20 per cent in 2022, and 30 per cent in 2023. Communities will also no longer be billed for the full-time enhanced policing positions that they have previously funded, as the government will be absorbing this cost.
  • The establishment of a new Alberta Police Advisory Board will give small and rural communities policed by the RCMP a forum to discuss policing priorities with the RCMP. It will be made up of representatives from the RMA, the AUMA, and the Alberta Association of Police Governance.
  • The new funding model will be implemented on April 1, 2020. Municipalities can expect to receive an annual invoice for their front-line policing costs beginning in January 2021. The new funding model is sustainable and equitable while supporting public safety measures that will help protect all Albertans, no matter where they live. Policing is a “people – based” service, and we are committed to working in partnership with Albertans to create solutions that work for them.
Development:

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 Government of Alberta response indicates that the new cost model “will bring small and rural municipalities into line with larger communities and cities.” However, the cost model does not provide rural and small urban municipalities with any enhanced local input into policing to align with their new financial responsibilities. While large cities can form police commissions to provide mandated direction to local police services, rural and small urban communities continue to be limited to forming voluntary police committees, which are much more limited in both scope and power. RMA’s formal submission into the police costing model development requested “no costs should be recovered from municipalities without corresponding enhancements to service delivery and local input into policing.” While the Alberta Police Advisory Board will allow RMA (and AUMA) to provide input into high-level policing priorities in the province, it will in no way allow individual municipalities to provide enhanced local input into policing that reflects their new financial responsibilities.
  • Throughout the consultation process, the Government of Alberta did not provide municipal stakeholders with any information on how the new costing model would be linked to improved local police services. There was no plan, outline or principles to provide stakeholders peace of mind that the cost model was anything other than a download. Following the completion of the consultation, the Government of Alberta announced that the cost model would be used to support 300 new RCMP officers and 200 new civilian administrative staff for the province, but provided no information on how these resources would be deployed or whether municipalities would have any input as to how they would be used to address local rural crime challenges.
  • RMA emphasized the importance of linking the police costing model to service levels by including a subsidy or modifier based on the proximity of a municipality to a detachment. While the costing model includes a detachment subsidy (municipalities without a detachment receive a 5% reduction on their invoice) rural municipalities are inexplicably excluded from this subsidy, although at least nine rural municipalities should qualify. While urban municipalities located as close as four kilometres to a detachment in a neighbouring municipality receive the subsidy, there are cases of hamlets in rural municipalities being located approximately 75 kilometres from a detachment that are ineligible for the subsidy.
  • The Government of Alberta response correctly indicates that rural municipalities expressed concern with the use of equalized assessment in the costing model formula. However, the reduction of the weighting of equalized assessment from 70% in the test model to 50% in the final model does not address RMA’s primary concern with the metric, which is that it in no way aligns with required service levels, which should be driven by a combination of population and crime statistics. RMA’s formal submission into the police costing model development expressed the following concerns with the use of equalized assessment:
    • Equalized assessment is not an accurate measure of municipal “wealth” or ability to pay
    • In rural municipalities, equalized assessment represents “high-risk” revenue from the oil and gas industry, which is reflected in current issues with uncollected municipal taxes on oil and gas property
    • Relying on equalized assessment to measure ability to pay may result in a greater tax burden on oil and gas companies operating in rural municipalities
    • Other provincial programs use equalized assessment as a measure of need, rather than wealth, which call into questions its usefulness as a measure of a municipality’s ability to pay

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.

Provincial Ministries:
Justice and Solicitor General
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