A city councillor wants to investigate an idea that could reduce future police costs in Kamloops, a growing expenditure identified by city staff as a financial hurdle next year.
The city is facing a 3.4 per cent property tax hike in 2019, based on early budget talks.
Coun. Mike O’Reilly suggested Tuesday the city consider an idea heard in a report out of Kelowna last week.
It referenced special provincial constables, which could enforce provincial laws for minor crimes. O’Reilly said the constables could fill a gap between RCMP and bylaw officers, while keeping down costs.
“I think it’s something we should further explore,” he said.
The idea came as council heard adding new police officers in 2019 will cost $200,000 per officer. The city is adding three.
Bylaw officers, meanwhile, cost $85,000.
Special constable positions would essentially be armed bylaw officers, protective services director Byron McCorkell told KTW, something vetoed recently after a review of bylaw services.
Identified as “bylaw three” officers on the city’s ranking, the special provincial constables’ pay would likely fall somewhere between an RCMP officer and a bylaw officer, McCorkell said.
RCMP wages are also increasing overall and policing remains the largest city expenditure, accounting for 17 per cent of the 2019 budget.
McCorkell told council staff have not explored in detail the possibility of adding the positions. He said the city is working toward more interactive enforcement. but noted “at the same time, there is a gap.”
The constable positions are not common in B.C. and adding them may require lobbying the provincial government.
Meanwhile, the RCMP budget is slated to increase by $2.65 million next year, alongside simultaneous increases in fire services ($657,000) and bylaw services ($18,000).
In addition to the new officers, Kamloops RCMP Supt. Syd Lecky noted a 2.5 per cent hike to the overall contract.
Kamloops Fire Rescue Chief Mike Adams said a $459,000 wage increase comes from the International Association of Fire Fighters’ contract, in addition to $184,000 requested for overtime.
Adams told KTW that overtime figure came from what was experienced in previous years.
He said fire events are increasingly common due to climate change and cited the Bachelor Heights fire last year as an example. In addition, he said aging staff are more prone to injuries and sick days. The overtime budget also includes time for training.
Meanwhile, the RCMP said it found efficiencies in patrol car maintenance and IT services, including the addition of dash cams in patrol cars. It has also seen a reduction in RCMP jail revenues, though Lecky said he is “quite grateful to have that reduction” due to the risk of housing prisoners.
Budget talks continued on Tuesday afternoon and a public budget meeting will be held Wednesday at 7 p.m. on McArthur Island.