The Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS) is set to present a substantial budget increase for 2024 to the regional council, following the board’s approval this Wednesday. The proposed budget of $228.4 million marks a $14.4 million hike from the previous year, potentially leading to a 4.62% increase in regional property taxes.
The budget, which will be discussed on November 22 before potentially receiving final approval in mid-December, reflects both the challenges and priorities of the region’s policing needs.
Waterloo Regional Police Chief Mark Crowell emphasized the collaborative nature of the budgeting process. “This budget has been crafted with the consent and the help of our community,” he stated. Crowell highlighted the dual focus of meeting legislative requirements for adequate and effective policing while incorporating community feedback gathered during a year of strategic business planning.
The increased budget is driven by various economic factors, as outlined by Kirsten Hand, the WRPS director of finance and assets. “Increasing rates of inflation. On our capital side, we have seen the cost of construction impact our facility capital projects by 12 per cent year over year,” Hand explained. She also mentioned contractual increases, including cost-of-living adjustments and various benefits costs such as the enhanced Canada Pension Plan (CPP) program, health and dental coverage, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) costs, and retiree benefit costs. These increases were partially offset by concessions in the latest collective agreement.
Efforts to mitigate the budget increase were also noted. Hand revealed that a thorough assessment led to a $1.9 million reduction from the initial estimate. “A number of those items were a review of our front-line technology, program timing and implementation, as well as decreases to various lines based upon updated spend information,” she added.
For the average resident, this budget translates to an increase of $34 in yearly taxes, bringing the total to $780 per residence. This figure underscores the balance between maintaining robust law enforcement services and managing the financial impact on residents.
The upcoming council discussion will be crucial in determining the acceptance and implementation of the proposed budget, setting the stage for policing services in the region for the upcoming year.