Kingston Police Services Board approves 2023 budget

Photo by Lucas Mulder/Kingstonist.

The Kingston Police Services Board has passed its operating budget for 2023, which includes a net spending increase of $1.7 million for the force, up 4 per cent over the 2022 budget. At a meeting on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, Kingston Police Acting Chief Scott Fraser presented the budget to members of the board. “What we’re trying to accomplish, and what we’re facing in the community, is something that we want to address in this budget,” Fraser said in his introductory remarks.

In terms of overall spending, the 2023 budget includes a net cost of $44.36 million, up from the $42.66 million budgeted in 2022. Part of the four per cent increase from 2022 is to accommodate the hiring of 12 new staff members for the police force, which comes with a price tag of $2.35 million. “What we’re looking to do in 2023 is add eight sworn officers to our complement and four civilians who are going to assist in our communication centre,” said Fraser. “That would bring up our total complement to 219 sworn and 66 civilians.”

“Our wages and benefits really are the bulk of our budget,” added the acting Chief. “The 2023 budget is with the additional staffing… so we have that adding to the increase this year.”

Along with increased staffing costs, the 2023 budget for Kingston Police also includes over $300,000 on “Supplies and Materials,” up 9.79 per cent from 2022. “Obviously [with] ‘Supplies and Materials,’ some of the costs [have] gone up. Fuels and lubricants, for example… go up and down. So we’re trying to be in the middle of the neutral layer with costs,” Fraser said.

In terms of the ways Kingston Police’s budget compares to the spending habits of other municipalities, the presentation included figures from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing’s 2021 Financial Information Return, to show Kingston’s spending in relation to the rest of the province. “It’s always hard with comparisons because every community is different… They all have their own challenges,” noted Fraser.

In 2021, Kingston spent $45.6 million on policing, which represented a per capita net cost of $344. In terms of Kingston’s 10 closest comparators, the city’s per capita net cost was the second lowest in the province, ahead of only Chatham-Kent, which spent $305 per capita. 

Fraser also remarked on the fact that Kingston Police often deal with issues and investigations that other municipal police forces do not. “We include things like [the] downloading of sexual assault investigations, [and] we’ve got a major military base; those are some of the challenges we face that other communities don’t… We’re working with our counterparts at the Department of National Defense, and we’re working with our counterparts at OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) and neighbouring agencies to assist with that.”

The acting Chief’s presentation also included a glimpse at Kingston Police’s proposed spending for the next three years, through 2026. For 2024, the annual budget is expected to see a 3.64 per cent increase over 2023, while spending in 2025 will go up by 3.63 per cent. Meanwhile, the forecast for 2026 suggests that the budget will increase by 3.81 per cent.

“We’re trying to give the best snapshot that we can to the City of where we’re going to be in 2024, 2025, and 2026,” Fraser said of the three-year forecast. “We don’t have [a] crystal ball, but in a perfect world, this is where we’re going to be.”

On top of the 2023 operating budget, Fraser’s presentation also included a capital request of $2.29 million to upgrade the force’s fleet and facilities, as well as to maintain information technology and infrastructure. “Our capital is outside of our operating budget; that’s a separate kind of envelope. But we’re very specific [about] what we need… [We’re] upgrading our technology to work a little more closely with our frontline [staff], and also to support us when [we’re] trying to bring information to the board,” noted Fraser.

Once the acting Chief’s presentation was complete, members of the board had the opportunity to ask questions about the proposed budget. Councillor Jimmy Hassan asked whether the four per cent increase over 2022 will allow Kingston Police to better “help the community.”

“It’s no secret,” responded Fraser, “we’ve had to take a hard look at the organization in 2022, in order to ensure we had enough frontline officers… What this budget is doing is [trying to] improve on the number of staff we have available.”

In response to Councillor Hassan’s question, Fraser also spoke about Kingston Police’s recent decision not to renew the Mounted Unit for 2023. “It’s been in the news a lot in relation to the Mounted Unit, and redeploying the rider to another area of the organization. Currently, we’re trying to ensure that we have enough bodies on the road to respond to calls… to be there when 911 gets activated, and to do some proactive policing.”

Board member Dr. Christian Leuprecht asked whether the budget will allow for “greater police visibility and presence within the city.”

Fraser replied, “That’s one of the big things that everybody’s asking for: that visibility, that presence… certainly from the downtown core. I hear from a lot of businesses about [visibility]. So we’re working on strategies on how to get people to the areas that need [us].”

The 2023 Kingston Police budget passed by a unanimous vote from members of the Police Services Board. Acting Chief Fraser will now prepare a presentation to Kingston City Council, which will be delivered during Council’s 2023 budget meetings, which are currently scheduled from February 27 to March 1, 2023. 

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