this blog entry has been updated.
Well, this is just ridiculous. The Spectator reports that Hamilton Police Services has refused to adjust its budget request for a five percent increase over last year, even after Council sent it back for revision.
[Councillor] Lloyd Ferguson, who spearheaded the pushback against the 5 percent increase request, said the police are the only board or agency who ignored the city's guideline to base their increase request on the inflation rate.
Under Provincial law, Police Services Boards are not required to publish line-by-line details of police budgets, and Council is not allowed to challenge specific budget allocations. They can only accept or reject the budget in its entirety. However, the law does not prevent Boards from disclosing budget details. Some cities, like Toronto, do provide detailed budget breakdowns.
Police Services are an integral part of a functioning city and deserve to be funded properly - but so is every other city department, and they were all able to make the compromises and find the savings to meet Council's directive to hold down their budget increases.
In contrast, the police budget demands and receives large increases every year, year after year. It's just astonishing that they would flat-out refuse to accept Council's directive to come in line with other departments.
In the letter, [Nancy DiGregorio, chair of the Police Services Board] said the police board met April 8 to take another look at the budget. The board met behind closed doors, did not notify the public, and did not list the meeting on its website.
"Therein lies the problem," said Councillor Brad Clark. "I didn't see the budget. I have no idea what's the in the budget. The public has no idea what's in the budget. We have no idea. The whole thing was in private."
Rubbing it in further, Police Chief Glenn de Caire has already stated that Council can expect a similar increase next year.
That sense of entitlement is an insult to the taxpayers who have to foot a bill they are not even allowed to see.
In the absence of transparency, it is difficult to swallow the claim that the Police budget is so different from every other budget - including emergency medical services - that it is impervious to all attempts to hold the line on spending.
Update: Nancy DiGregario's letter to Council is available in PDF on the City website.
Update 2: This blog entry originally read in part, "Provincial law prevents Councillors from seeing details of the police budget...", which is not correct. You can jump to the changed paragraph.