Police Services Board Budget & Deputation

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This is a brief update on this month’s Council and Police Services Board meetings.

The February Council meeting was held on February 18, a week earlier than normal. There were two notable items involving Policing dealt with that night.

The first was a deputation by the Midland Police Services Board concerning their proposed 2014 budget for the Midland Police. The Board Chair informed Council that the Board would ultimately submit a 2014 budget increase of at least 3.7% following a 2013 increase of 5.6% – despite Council’s requirement that all Midland departments present both 0% and 2% budgets for consideration.

The Board Chair was combative when responding to questions from Councillors about what if anything the Board has done to attempt to deliver a budget that meets the targets every other Town department has met. The basic message was there was nothing the Board was prepared to do to change that situation now or in the future and if Council didn’t like it, then the Board would waste more tax money battling our own elected representatives at the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC).

We recognize budgets can sometimes be challenging and sometimes there is no instant fix. Fair enough, but what is the excuse for ignoring the same challenges year after year?

Our current system for Police oversight is so broken that nobody takes responsibility for protecting the public interest. A majority of the current Board members see themselves only as champions of Police Department leadership and not champions of the public interest. They should seriously consider whether it is fair to dump these kinds of increases on residents without earnestly trying to fix the problems.

The second notable item saw Council make a temporary appointment to the Police Services Board because Deputy Mayor Kramp is unable to act due to a complaint from the Board majority (nice way to silence someone you might not agree with). The discussion was interesting. Four Councillors thought it was just fine to leave Mayor McKay as the only elected member on the Board until Council later decided to make the temporary appointment. Then the same four thought it would be beneficial if one of them filled the position instead of Councillor Canning who might actually try to protect the taxpaying public. Ultimately Council appointed Councillor Canning by a narrow 5-4 vote.

That is not the end of the story however. The very next day, February 19, was the scheduled meeting of the Midland Police Services Board. Councillor Canning arrived to take his seat at the 4:00 pm meeting. About the same time, the Board Chair and 2 other Board members slipped out of the meeting room with the Police Chief and Board secretary to have a discussion which was not audio recorded. They then returned to the meeting room to announce the Board had decided it would not allow Councillor Canning to take his seat because they had not received any ‘official notification’ of his appointment.

The Board is legally bound to hold its meetings in public but they slip out of the meeting room and come back to announce they have made a decision. Some may think it’s OK to ignore the law as long as you’re the Police Services Board. But you sure have to wonder how those same people can insist others comply with invented rules about ‘official notification’ when they know perfectly well Councillor Canning was appointed to the Board the night before.

If the Police Services Board doesn’t stop playing games and playing fast and loose with the rules then it’s time they step aside. Midland simply deserves better.

Midland what are your views on the effectiveness of the Police Services Board? Do you feel they are focused on the right things? Is it time to put an end to this petty behaviour and start becoming more accountable to the people and to Council?

Well Midlanders, it’s your town and you’re the customer. Let’s hope the PSB wakes up in time to realize whose paying the freight.

As always, we welcome your opinions – comment below or join us on Facebook.

George Dixon and Roy Ellis
on behalf of Midlandcommunity.ca.

13 Comments on "Police Services Board Budget & Deputation"

  1. Whether the town of Midland had its own police force, or contracted out through the OPP, it would still have a Police Services Board – the difference would be that its focus would change somewhat.

    Tough to say whether the 5.6%, 3.7% compounded increases in overall budgets is excessive without doing some reverse engineering. One would think that with inflation running well below the 2% Bank of Canada target rate for the last number of years something is out of whack. Especially when you consider the improvements in technology – smart phones c/w cameras for most of the population, social media such as twitter used by the MPS and its chief, video surveillance. Does this not result in net productivity improvements over time (and hence reduced costs). It appears that the benefit side of the cost/benefit analysis is being overlooked.

    Notwithstanding my earlier comments, the Board is constrained on wage increases somewhat by the collective agreement and the opportunity to go to arbitration where proxy police force wages (ie OPP, Toronto) factor into the equation. This affects the smaller, slower growing and/or contracting towns the greatest. Midland is a good example.

    It reminds me of a the fictional town of Lake Wobegon part of the radio program A Prarie Home Companion . The closing comments on the opening monologue: “”Well, that’s the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.”

    What police force would settle for below average wages (and we know from statistics that there must be some below average)? What leads to inflating wages if everyone settles for above the current average.

    Margaret Wente had an interesting related column August 8, 2013 , A nation of $100,000 firefighters highlighting the problem:
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/a-nation-of-100000-firefighters/article13647608/

    Regarding Board performance, another G&M column Feb 4th of this year: “Why boards must lead – not just monitor- management”.
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/careers/management/why-boards-must-lead-not-just-monitor/article16672492/

    Perhaps it might be useful to expand on the roles of Police Boards in general in terms of acting on behalf of the voters/citizenship in a separate blog.

    • Bill, while I found your three word solution to last month’s post over-simplified and naive, I can see now that you are in fact open-minded. Once again, I (just one fellow Midlander) agree with some of your points. What is missing from the update is if the Mayor slipped out to negotiate or protested by staying in the meeting. What seems to get lost is he (and Kramp) have to wear two hats (I assume). Seems Kramp has some kind of issue, and as stated previously, we will have to wait for the smoke to clear and the lawyer bills to come in, to learn about his “i’m not suspended” issue, but what about McKay? He is our mayor and sits on the board. He would have known about the appointment and must have had some say in this decision? Maybe he’s another part of the problem here. This just seems so silly. Who had to notify the board? Obviously not council since the head of council sits on the board. Is there some other body that has to notify them and has yet to? I think it would be in our best interest to find all this out before we start assuming some kind of conspiracy… there is something important here that we don’t seem to know. Perhaps you folks could dig deeper into this temporary position issue and get back to all of us…

      • I’m sure you must already know this, but I found a link to the statute that seems to govern and direct the board (found it on the Midland Police website under the Board section)

        http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_90p15_e.htm#BK52

        It seems that the board sets the budgets and oversees the finances and strategic plan for the police service but is prohibited from any ‘operational’ control. I also found a notice about an upcoming public meeting hosted by the board looking for input from the public about strategy. Considering this seems to be a hot topic here, and I can see why, you might want to post something about this meeting and promote folks’ attendance…

        Here is the link to the event…

        http://www.police.midland.on.ca/news/invitation-business-planning-meeting

        • Hi Dan. The Policing topic is becoming a lively debate and we appreciate everyone for giving this matter some serious thought. One of our members, George Dixon, a former Lawyer for North York was in attendance at the said meeting. He reported out that both the Mayor, in his capacity of Police Services Board member (PSB) and Mr. Dixon himself, from the floor, advised that Councillor Canning was officially appointed to the Board the evening before. There were in fact three people in the room who could or did confirm the appointment. The Board Chair stated that they had no notice from the Clerk and they were unprepared to administer the Oath of office. Hope this clarifies.
          We remain perplexed as to why the Board didn’t do everything possible to solidify it’s five member panel in an effort to start tackling some of the obvious challenges of the day. This was a waste of time for Councillor Canning who was eager to start his new position, and again misdirected energy on behalf of the PSB which goes to the overall dysfunction we speak of.
          Thanks

          Roy Ellis

  2. Good morning

    It is clear that the police budget is structured in a manner that creates a false impression of our spending increases, but unfortunately accounting rules will not allow this to change.

    Although it appears our budget has simply risen by 5.6% last year and a proposed 3.7% for 2014, a large portion of this rise is due to a third party revenue stream that was not as productive as expected, and not an increase in expenditures.

    The police service conducts record checks for companies that help large corporations hire staff. This process has brought the town of Midland more than 6 million since 2004, a direct reduction in taxes. However, this is a very fragile industry so the revenue stream could end at any time, and although it still brings a profit, it has been decreasing over time. The budget line is dependent on the ability of these companies to gain contracts with corporations, whether these corporations are hiring, and changes to RCMP, CPIC policies.

    About 90% of police budgets are wages and benefits. It is not possible to establish a police budget, which effectively establishes the number of police officers we require, based on how much money we can bring from this outside revenue stream. In fact, we have to base our staffing on the needs of Midland residents and cannot simply layoff officers if the revenue drops, in order to meet a budget target.

    Your Police Services Board is comprised of capable people that all have an interest in keeping taxes low and keeping Midland safe. Two are Members of Council, one is appointed by Council, and two are residents appointed by the Province, they are all Midland residents. Your Police Services Board conducted a public, line-by-line budget review and cut everywhere possible. Despite the possibility of long-term strategies that may recognize savings in the future, nothing more could be done in 2014 to reduce this year’s budget. The message delivered to Council was not “we won’t do it”, but rather, “there is nothing further we can do this year”.

    The Board does reduce staff when possible and reduced by one officer in 2012. The Board carefully analyzes spending and has been spending less on capital than we did years ago. The Service takes advantage of provincial purchasing programs to ensure we can buy equipment as cheaply as any other police service. We employ Special Constables at a lower pay rate and utilize Auxiliary (volunteer) Officers where possible. We take advantage of technology and we are a leader in finding innovative and cost efficient ways of reducing crime (see crimeplot.com).

    The bottom line is, if this third party revenue line was removed from our budget, you would see that our budget increases would be a proposed 1.7% for 2014 and 3.6% in 2013. This is very reasonable in comparison with other police agencies.

    I am available by email, phone or in person to discuss any topics related to the operations of the police service and invite all of you to attend our business planning meetings on Wednesday, March 12th, 2014 2:00 PM to 4:00PM OR 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM at the North Simcoe Sports & Recreation Centre.

    Sincerely,

    Chief Mike Osborne
    27@police.midland.on.ca
    705 527-6633

    • Midland Community | March 3, 2014 at 7:30 am | Reply

      Thank you for your contribution to the discussion, Chief. It is quite true Midland Police budgets include revenue the department gets from background checks. It is also true that has been the practice for years, probably decades.

      You say this practice “…creates a false impression of our spending increases…” If it does that now it also did when your revenue from background checks was increasing and was creating a false impression that your budget increases were smaller than they actually were. Did anybody from the PSB or Police Service complain about it then or try to ensure the public understood the real situation?

      It seems to us you can’t expect to have it both ways – you can’t say revenue is part of your budget when the money is rolling in and makes you look good but not when it’s declining and makes you look not so good.

      There is a huge sense of unreality about debating whether we call the 2013 increase 5.6% or only 3.6%. Either is way too much when the people you are supposed to protect and who pay the bills are lucky to see the rate of inflation (less than 1% in 2013) in their pay or pension cheques.

      You say conducting background checks “…is a very fragile industry so the revenue stream could end at any time, and although it still brings a profit, it has been decreasing over time.” If you and the PSB know this is such a “fragile industry” why did you not have a plan to deal with the inevitable day the revenue started falling and why is there still no plan?

      You say the message you had the PSB Chair deliver to Council was not “we won’t do it”, but rather, “there is nothing further we can do this year”. Please tell us what you are planning to do so next year we don’t just hear “there is nothing further we can do this year”.

      The ultimate issue is whether policing costs in Midland are too high or just about right. We can avoid wrangling about percentage increases by comparing spending in different places. We have done a comparison across Simcoe County for spending in 2012 on policing (excluding court security, prisoner transportation and amortization). Police spending per person ranged from $95 in Ramara to $312 in Barrie. Midland was the second highest spender out of 18 places at $297 per person.

      We believe this shows there is ample room to reduce spending in a peaceful community like ours with an ever-decreasing crime rate. That is the challenge for those who are up to it.

      George Dixon

  3. Dear Mr. Ellis and Mr Dixon,

    Please Sirs, what on earth do you have against the Midland Police Service Board? Your very heated blogs here, and your waspy letter to the editor in today’s Mirror, lead me to believe you have a personal vendetta against the Midland PSB.

    As a person (or group) supposedly committed to the betterment of Midland, to speak for the people, you are doing a poor job of providing unbiased information to the people you say you are working for.

    Let’s take a look at this blog..

    You refer to Councils requirement for all of Midland’s departments to come in with 0% and 2% budgets for consideration. Parks and Rec is a department within Midland, Public Works is a department within Midland. The Police Service is NOT a department within the Town of Midland. Police Services are contracted agencies. Would you consider the OPP to be a department within the Town of Penetanguishene? I’m pretty sure OPP would set you right if you did. Is an OPP costing, or any Police costing, really not just a tendered bid? Oh, and good luck TELLING them they must come in with a 0% or 2% budget.

    You mention that the Board Chair was combative in her discussion with Council. Pretty much the pot calling the kettle black aren’t you? Is your writing style any less combative?

    In one paragraph you say that there is nothing that the Board is prepared to do to meet Councils budget expectations. I was at the KPMG presentation to the Town of Midland, and reviewed it again on your site. At the meeting, KPMG commended the Police Service for running so efficiently. 90% of the police budget is based on manpower. In their report, the only way they can see savings is by the loss of jobs to members of Midland Police Service by going with another agency. Reading your article, I would surmise that the PSB does not want to cut any jobs. I think that is commendable of them when the Town of Midland has seen the loss of quite a few jobs over the last few years.

    You go into the appointment of Mr. Canning, and the private conversation among the Board members. You don’t mention how you know that THEY knew Mr. Canning would be at that meeting in the capacity of a Board member. So there were three people in the room who knew of the appointment (pretty sure I can find three people who’ve seen UFO’s, but that doesn’t make their existence a fact). Do you have a copy of the official notification the Board was to have received, or is it just based on the fact that since it happened the night before they ought to have known? You speak of the PSB being “legally bound” to hold their meetings in public. Please make yourself familiar with the Police Services Act which speaks to the ability of the Police Services Board hold private some portions of a meeting. As a taxpayer in Midland, and an educated person such as yourself, I do not feel offended that they should discuss this in private. One last question on this matter, had Mr. Canning been sworn into office before showing up to sit in his chair? The PSA speaks to oaths of office as well, and one can safely assume that not everyone carries around a copy of an oath to office for a person to affirm or a bible on which to swear.

    I’m not sure why I am offended by your articles. Perhaps it is the feeling that you are talking down to the members of our community, and forcing your one-sided opinions on us, instead of giving us the impartial information with which to form our own opinion. You obviously want to affect change within the Town. Give us ALL the information accurately, and you may find more people on your side.

    I was born, raised and chose to live here, and I love my town. I have friends who chose to move here because they met and fell in love with Midland. If you would like to be influential, report on both sides of the story. Otherwise you risk scaring people away from our town.

    • Midland Community | March 3, 2014 at 6:34 pm | Reply

      Thank you for your input to this discussion. We always welcome differing opinions and thoughtful, genuine contributions to a lively debate. We wish we could view your comment in that light but regrettably, we can’t.

      You suggest the information we provide in our updates is somehow not factual yet nowhere do you identify even one specific fact that we have reported incorrectly.

      You resort to silliness about UFOs when we correctly state there were three people present at the PSB meeting who were also present at the Council meeting when Councillor Canning was appointed to the PSB – Mayor McKay, Councillor Canning and George Dixon. Further, the Board Chair knew about Canning’s appointment because Dixon, in addition to any other sources she had, informed her of that fact before the PSB meeting began. And Dixon heard a discussion confirming a bible was available that afternoon for the oath of office to be sworn.

      It seems to us your major issue is not that we get the facts wrong but that we get them right and for some reason you do not want to accept them. So to pursue the goal you say we should strive for to “give us ALL the information accurately”, here are some further facts:

      1) We do not view the Midland Police Service as a contractor as you apparently do. But if policing is just a contacted service, shouldn’t Midland be seeking the lowest qualified bidder whenever it can? You refer to KPMG in your comment but neglect to mention the fact KPMG estimated annual cost savings of $750,000 if Midland contracted with a different provider.

      2) Midland Council is entitled to set budget targets for all the departments and agencies it funds including the Police Service.

      3) Council can also require any budget the PSB submits for approval to be in a form and in such detail as Council requires. That includes 0% and 2% scenarios in addition to the budget the PSB actually recommends if that is neither 0% nor 2%.

      4) Midland Council can choose to accept or reject any budget the PSB actually recommends for approval.

      5) If Council rejects a budget, the PSB can sharpen its pencils and submit a revised budget or require a hearing before the OCPC if the PSB truly believes the Midland Police Service cannot operate for less than its last budget submitted.

      6) The Police Service will not run out of money just because its budget is tight. Midland taxpayers have to cover any shortfalls and pay all the bills no matter what.

      7) This system for financing Police is far from perfect but it does give some measure of authority to Town Councils who, after all, are the ones who have to send taxpayers the bills for Policing – not the PSB.

      8) Now about the secret meeting concerning Councillor Canning’s appointment. The law requires the PSB to hold all its meetings in public with only two very limited, specific exceptions. We are confident neither exception permitted the Board to meet privately to consider whether to let Councillor Canning take his seat. Please go to our web site and familiarize yourself with the law about open PSB meetings highlighted in a recent deputation George Dixon made to the PSB in January.

      Whether you are personally offended when the PSB chooses to ignore the law is not the issue. You may be happy in a place where public servants do whatever they please but we are not.

      9) And now to end where you began. We have nothing “against the Midland Police Services Board” personally. But we are very concerned about what we see as a pattern of disruptive, counterproductive behaviour that results in no 2014 budget yet being submitted to Council even though all other departments and agencies submitted theirs months ago. It culminates in what we consider a mean-spirited and nasty refusal to graciously welcome the newest Board member, Councillor Canning. Any legitimate concerns the PSB had about his appointment could have been easily allayed if the PSB really wanted to solve problems instead of creating roadblocks.

      We love Midland too and rave to friends and family about all the good things this place offers. But that does not mean we have to put blinders on and deny that our Town could do some things much better than it does. We want Midland to be the very best it can be and we hope you can become enthused about that too.

      Roy Ellis & George Dixon for MidlandCommunity.ca

  4. Midland Community | March 3, 2014 at 8:05 am | Reply

    “What an incredible set of circumstances. I wonder what the OCPC (Ontario Civilian Police Commission) would think of such an action taking place.
    You might want to consider sending this along to the OCPC with copies to MPP Garfield Dunlop and the Mayor and Council of Midland. So it becomes part of the official public record and can be discussed in open Council. This document needs to be part of the public record”.

    Stephen Ogden, Midland

    • To serve, and protect (our jobs).

    • Don’t the Mayor and the Deputy mayor sit on the Police Services Board and would know all this already… as would Council both present and past? While I like the fact of bonus revenue offsetting costs (although I never thought policing could actually make us money), it seems to me that we should have been banking that for the rainy day that has now blown upon us. I suspect that if we count on our “bonuses” as part of our income, we will one day have an issue… This is what happens with the Province when everything gets dumped into General Revenues and cannot be accounted for thereafter. Ever tried to un-make a soup?

  5. I certainly wish my last post was published on your site. Talk about controlling the flow of information Midland Community.ca – shame on you. The minute anyone is in opposition with your point(s) of view, lookout! If you truly had the best interest of Midland at heart you would post all opinions, not pick and choose the ones you feel you can pick apart.

    • Midland Community | March 5, 2014 at 3:14 pm | Reply

      Richard,

      Your comment post in response to the January Council Updates article was approved February 27. Here is a link to that article:
      http://midlandcommunity.ca/january-council-highlights/

      You will find your comment and our reply to your comment down the page, following the article, they are listed chronologically. Please expect with all comments that there may be delays as we go through the moderation process and/or work on replies.

      Additionally, we’d appreciate in the future if you give us the benefit of the doubt, as we like to think we’re part of the solution, not the problem. We are posting the above comment and reply to remind all readers we welcome respectfully delivered comments of any opinion.

      Thank you,

      MidlandCommunity.ca

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