Kimberley staff and council are deep into budget preparation, but there are still unknowns, some due to the pandemic, some due to other factors.
At a special council meeting last Monday, February 1, 2021, Chief Financial Officer Jim Hendricks presented a guide to where they were with budget deliberations, and also what they didn’t know.
Budget unknowns include wages of union city employees. The collective agreement between the city and the United Steelworkers expired last February and a new agreement has not yet been ratified. Wage and benefit costs will have to be adjusted once that happens.
It is also difficult to estimate costs and revenues due to the Aquatic Centre’s continued closure. The amount of the coming year’s aquatic centre parcel tax levy can’t be set until final figures are available.
The transit budget may be affected as BC Transit is in the final stages of the competitive process to find a new operator. Depending the final contract, the budget could change.
A very big unknown is the cost to the city of RCMP unionization. RCMP salaries have been frozen since 2016. A significant increase to city costs could be on the horizon.
“We have absolutely no influence on this,” said Mayor Don McCormick. “We will be told what we are going to pay.”
Municipalities with populations from 5,000 to 14,999 pay 70 percent of policing costs. The federal government pays the remaining 30 percent.
In his report to council, Hendricks noted that according to a Jan 20, 2021 UBCM bulletin, the federal government and National Police Federation are currently negotiating a collective agreement that they aim to present to the membership for their consideration by summer 2021.
–Based on RCMP National Headquarters previous instructions to Divisions to project a 2.5 per cent pay increase retroactive to December 31, 2016, the City’s RCMP contract budget in each year from 2017 forward has been increased by 2.5 per cent.
The information in the UBCM bulletin indicates that the previously projected 2.5 per cent increase will likely be insufficient based on the following:
The starting salary at most municipal police forces reviewed is greater than $70,000 per year, which is over 30 per cent more than what is initially offered by the RCMP ($53,144 for the
first 6 months of service)
The salary for a first class constable at most of the municipal police forces in the review was greater than $100,000 per year, which is over 15 per cent more than the $86,110 offered
by the RCMP.
The city has currently budgeted $994,973 in 2021 for the RCMP contract.
If, for example, the City is required to increase its RCMP contract budget amount by 15 per cent as a result of the outcome of collective bargaining, a property tax hike of approx. $1.4 per cent would be required to fund the $149,246 additional cost. If the increase is retroactive, a similar amount would be required for each of 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 as well.
The current balance of the reserve established to mitigate such “surprises” is $259,886.
Staff recommends that any budget savings realized in relation to the RCMP function in 2020 be directed to the RCMP Contract Reserve in preparation for a potentially significant increase.