Residents will face a hike in taxes for the next few years because of policing costs as Ramara Township’s requests to partner with neighbouring police services remained unsuccessful.
Last year, Mayor Basil Clarke talked about council’s plans to reach out to Chippewas of Rama First Nation and Durham Regional Police to partner in policing Ramara. At a council meeting last week, the responses were received – no takers.
“We’ve reached out to Durham in the past,” he said. “It didn’t surprise me they weren’t interested in crossing that boundary.”
No reasons were cited in the Durham Regional Police Services Board’s written response to council, and Clarke said he would only be guessing at its reason to refuse. A media officer with that municipality’s police services board did not return calls before press time.
On the other hand, Rama First Nation wrote to Ramara council, “While our officers are appointed their authorities under Ontario’s Police Services Act and we enforce all federal, provincial and local laws, our service does not enjoy full inclusion within the act, thereby precluding our ability to enter into any amalgamation with a municipality.”
Clarke, however, is not ready to give up and wants to look further into the act to see whether a way around it can be found.
“They quoted a policy that doesn’t allow them to police us,” he said. “I have to look into that policy to see exactly what it is that’s prohibiting it and take it to the next level, because I’d really like to have a partnership with our First Nations friends.”
It’s frustrating, added Clarke, that on one hand, municipal associations encourage working partnerships between neighbouring municipalities, yet provincial and federal policies stand in the way.
Until a third solution is found, Ramara faces a 4% tax increase every year before it’s even time for budget talks, though the cost is being phased in over five years.“Our OPP rate went from about $878,000 to $1.7 million in a year, so it’s almost doubled our rate for policing,” Clarke said. “What we end up doing is slashing services elsewhere to make with that.”
One way the municipality has saved costs, he said, is by holding off on constructing new roads.
According to Supt. Marc Bedard, of the OPP Municipal Policing Bureau, Ramara’s policing cost is calculated at $269 per household, per year.
“Township of Ramara will be paying be less than a third of what Toronto is paying,” he said. “When it comes to their cost, they’re currently paying somewhere around $269 per property per year, and that’s well under a dollar a day.”
Prior to Jan. 1, 2015 (when the new model came into effect), the policing cost created unfairness among communities, he said.
“You had communities that paid as low as $6 per property per year and you had communities that were paying over $800,” said Bedard, “which didn’t make a lot of sense, and we heard it loud and clear from communities.”
A review of the billing model led to policing costs being divided into two sections: base cost and calls for service.
“The first piece being the base cost, which is accounting for having your officer ‘ready to go,’ equipped with tools on their belts, cruisers, IT required in the car, dispatchers and communication centres, to name a few,” said Bedard. “It also includes what we call proactive policing, like RIDE checks and crime prevention, things officers do without being called by the community to go and do it.”
Currently, the base cost for all municipalities in Ontario is at $191 per property per year, he said, with average cost for OPP policing municipalities across the province being $355.
“They’re paying less than a dollar a day and less than the average municipality a year,” added Bedard, referring to Ramara Township’s policing cost. “Policing and emergency services are not inexpensive. You have professional firefighters and EMS or police that are paid a decent wage to do what they do and that’s what it is. There’s no getting away from that.”
While Clarke respects the OPP and the service it provides, he feels it is unfair to small, rural communities, as many of those have properties that are occupied only during summer.
“The OPP’s hands are tied; this is the billing model they have to put forward,” he said. “I have the utmost respect for the OPP, but it’s very frustrating.”
Bedard said the OPP makes calculation of its policing costs as transparent as possible and is willing to have a discussion with municipalities such as Ramara to find cost savings.
“One of the main ways is by reducing your calls for service,” he said. “The goal is to minimize the need for policing. Will we ever eliminate the need for it – obviously not – but crime is at a different rate now as it was in the past and we’re very proud of that.”
For more on OPP policing costs, visit opp.ca.http://www.orilliapacket.com/2017/01/31 ... sil-clarke