Analysis: Police pay hikes too rich for many taxpayers

Christina Blizzard, Queen's Park Columnist

, Last Updated: 7:46 AM ET

TORONTO -- It's called "leapfrogging" -- and when it's not a schoolyard game, it ends up on your property tax bill.

Leapfrogging, when it applies to police salaries, is a practice whereby a police service negotiates a lucrative contract with one police force -- and then other forces use it to get a slightly better deal.

Municipalities across the province are struggling to pay the ever-increasing cost of policing brought about largely by a clause in the OPP contract that guarantees it will be the highest paid police force in the province.

According to the Ontario Association of Police Service Boards (OAPSB), policing costs in Ontario have risen at twice the rate of inflation over the last 15 years, with wages and benefits accounting for 80%-85% of overall policing costs.

Every 1% increase in police pay adds between $32-$35 million to the $4.5 billion it costs to police this province.

Ken East, president of OAPSB, says it's time to stop the leapfrogging effect and take that clause out of the OPP contract.

"Our members tell us they'd like other factors, such as cost of living and municipal ability to pay being important factors in the arbitration process," he said.

He also suggests civilians and private security firms could do some of the work now done by uniformed officers.

In a recent letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne, he asked her to amend the arbitration process to bring more balance to the factors arbiters consider.

"We're asking the province to exercise some moral suasion to influence municipalities on wage settlements," East said in a phone interview.

"The premier during the election and since has talked about public sector wage restraint and we're asking her and her ministers to encourage municipalities to exercise that same restraint," he said.

Many small municipalities now rely on OPP for policing -- and have to pay a portion of the cost. With very small tax bases, some small-town homeowners are being hit with massive property tax hikes.

East says the latest proposal in his township, Douro-Dummer near Peterborough, would hike taxes a massive 13%.

"That's a substantial hit," he says.


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