Close to $5 million could be cut from $200 million Hamilton Police budget

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Published February 12, 2024 at 3:06 pm

hamilton police budget 2024
Hamilton Police Central Station

A motion put forward by two members of the Hamilton Police Services Board suggests that close to $5 million could be cut from the police services’s 2024 budget.

The motion, which will come before the board on Feb. 13, says the total costs of policing have risen 8.41 per cent over last year–an increase of $16.7 million with a total overall cost of $214.8 million.

The police budget was previously sent back to the board in the hopes that it could be reduced after nearly a hundred delegates showed up in the council chambers earlier this year demanding the money be allocated elsewhere, such as towards affordable housing initiatives.

The motion, put forward by Ward 2 Councillor Cameron Kroetsch and Dr. Anjali Menezes, suggests that costs associated with hiring, cable TV, events, website maintenance, public outreach, office supplies and more could be eliminated or deferred until 2025. 

In a news release by Kroetsch and Menezes, the board members said the cost savings identified in their motions could save close to $5 million and that their future analyses could “save millions more.” 

“Once council sent the budget back in a vote of 12-3, Dr. Menezes and I submitted dozens of detailed questions about the 2024 budget to the chief. He responded and provided greater clarity on individual budget line items and general expenses,” Kroetsch said in a statement.

“In our view, there are many potential areas for savings and while we can’t direct the chief on specific operational decisions, the budget is ultimately the board’s responsibility. We’ve made recommendations to increase the overall fiscal accountability of the budget, which is our duty as members of the Board.”

The board consists of seven members, including Mayor Andrea Horwath, Councillor Esther Pauls, Pat Mandy (chair), Fred Bennink (vice chair) and Geordie Elms. Menezes is a citizen member of the board. 

On Jan. 30, Hamilton council voted to send the police budget back for further review, citing both the mayor’s overall budget directive to reduce costs and a council motion asking for all municipal staff to meet a cap of four per cent on municipally generated increases. 

The first motion calls for cuts to items not related to policing, including costs for cable TV ($19,600), retiree events ($19,400), website redesign ($100,000, with review for the 2025 budget) and surveys ($60,000 and $1,900). The motion also calls for the board to review office supply requirements to bring the budget in line with that of the city. According to the motion, savings of over $345,000 could be achieved.  

The motion also calls on police to consider merging duplicative departments such as legislative support, legal, accounting, information technology, and human resources.

The motion also calls for the board to review and possibly eliminate or defer expenses not mandated by the province, including removing $914,068 for the service’s mounted unit from this year’s budget, removing $37,300 for the ceremonial units and also removing funding associated with the costs of adding two constables to the service’s communications and public affairs department. 

The motion also calls for $118,100 to be removed from the 2024 budget for advertising and promotions. 

The motion also calls for police to defer hiring targets associated with the service’s strategic plan, which lays out how many officers and other staff members Hamilton police plan to recruit over the next 10 years. 

Kroetsch’s and Menezes’s motion says the $740,949.60 total listed for hiring the 22 full-time workers should be deferred to the 2025 budget and split into two categories–13 people associated with the 10-year human capital deployment and nine workers associated with the 2024 new sworn and civilian request.  

The motion also asks that police report back to the board about the potential to reallocate both sworn and civilian staff to fill any necessary staffing gaps in advance of the 2025 budget. 

“It’s pretty clear the public is concerned with the proposed increases to the police budget as it stands currently. The vast majority of the public correspondence to the police board focuses on reducing the cost of policing,” Menezes said in a statement. 

“Many of the comments raised to City Council during budget delegations were about police budget increases. The community has spoken.”

The board will review the motion tomorrow.

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