Analysis: Policing costs out of control

(QMI Agency Files)

(QMI Agency Files)

Christina Blizzard, Queen's Park Columnist

, Last Updated: 7:14 AM ET

TORONTO -- Runaway policing costs are forcing municipalities to hike property taxes and cast around for different ways to deliver programs to small towns.

The cost of OPP salaries has skyrocketed over the past decade, putting enormous stress on cash-strapped municipalities that don't have large corporate tax bases to draw upon to pay for them.

It was one of the hottest issues at this week's meeting of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO).

The province's police chiefs were surprisingly chippy in their opposition to AMO's pleas to hold the line on police salaries, posting scrappy tweets challenging AMO's views.

Here's an example from @OACPOfficial:

"Hey @OAPSB @AMOPolicy MT @jhagarty: "We have 2 change discussion 2 what is the value of policing, and stop talking about costs."

That's an interesting thought. But if you're a municipality and you could once afford policing but now can't because cop salaries have gone up 10%, the logical thing to do is to look at police salaries as being the reason why you can't afford the type of policing you want.

Some telling numbers from AMO paint a grim picture: In 2011, Ontarians spent $320 per capita on policing.

That's about $35 more than Albertans, $56 more than B.C. and $24 more than Quebec.

The OPP wage increase of 13.55% over four years, with a massive 8.55% hike this year, is causing grief for taxpayers.

The 2014 wage increase alone will add $25 million to property taxes.

Small towns just can't pay, says AMO's executive director.

"In half of Ontario's 444 municipal governments, a 1% tax increase yields about $50,000," Pat Vanini said in a phone interview.

"That OPP salary increase is going to those same municipalities across the province," she said.

With only a small tax base to start with, those ratepayers are getting slammed with 8-10% tax hikes.


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