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Alberta budget leaves Calgary police a further $13 million short

Calgary’s police chief said the province is taking a bigger chunk of fine revenue and that’s leaving them with a potential $10 million hole in their already shrunken budget.

Calgary Police Service (CPS) Chief Mark Neufeld told council on Monday, during an emergency meeting on the provincial budget cuts, that after they’d reviewed the budget’s impact on policing, they determined they could be short a total of $13.1 million.

Neufeld said that in their typical duties, officers are enforcing provincial offenses and legislation. The province collects the fines and they return a portion of that to the city for policing.

“The province’s portion of that up until this budget was 26.7 per cent of the revenue, and they’ve boosted that to 40 per cent,” Neufeld said.

“So, the impact our budget on that alone will be about $10 million.”

In the provincial budget documents, in the Municipal Affairs section, it says the following: “Policing grants are maintained and will be informed by the Justice and Solicitor General review.”

Bill 21, introduced in the Alberta Legislature Monday, notes changes to the Provincial Offenses Procedure Act. The province said the amendment will “broaden the purposes for which the province can retain fine money it collects on behalf of municipalities.”

In addition to the fine revenue, Neufeld said when they send away biological casework (aka DNA) to labs, the province would pick up a portion of that cost. Now that cost is being directed back to police forces, he said. That’s an additional $2 million cost to the CPS.

Lastly, he said his understanding is the province will be discontinuing the municipal cannabis transition program (seen in the budget documents), and that will be $1.1 million.

“When you look at the bigger picture here over the last couple years, we’ve found about $20 million in efficiencies, including earlier this year, we returned $7 million back to the city,” Neufeld said, noting that 86 per cent of their costs are people.

“So, you start talking about numbers like $13 million. That’s about 130 positions, is what that equates to.”

More tough decisions ahead, said Nenshi

Afterward, Mayor Naheed Nenshi said they’d be facing one of three scenarios: The police make more cuts; the city makes cuts to keep the police budget the same; or, they raise taxes.

“These are not easy decisions the council will be facing in the next several weeks,” Nenshi said.

The province was contacted on Monday evening for comment. A response hadn’t yet been received.  The story will be updated when the province responds.