Why City taxpayers pay more for policing than the District.
The largest single item in the budget of most local governments is policing. Until the last term of Council the basic costs of the North Vancouver RCMP detachment were evenly divided between the City and District governments based on population and an understanding policing costs should be shared across a community.
In most municipalities where the RCMP is responsible for policing, the municipal boundary coincides with the catchment area for most other community-defining activities such as education, recreation, social and cultural services. There is also a geographic logic to the boundary of a community.
Community implies interconnection and interdependence. It wouldn’t make sense, or be fair, to allocate more costs to the core of a community that is just as important to the people who live periphery as it is to the people who live in the core.
For most activities that define community–education, health, recreation, social and cultural organizations–North Vancouver is a community. Geography also gives North Vancouver as a whole a more distinct identity than the City or District. Common sense has until recently dictated policing costs in North Vancouver be shared between the City and District on the basis of population.
The March 2nd edition of the Globe & Mail featured an in-depth report on municipal policing services provided by the RCMP to 21 municipalities in BC which showed the City and District paying $232 and $185 per citizen respectively. That $47 more per citizen paid by the City is $2.5 million per year of a $14 million budget. If that difference were shared by population with the District, it would be a $1.5 million savings to City taxpayers.
Sometime during the last four years the City was compelled to accept a new funding formula for policing costs that cost City taxpayers $1.5 million per year and there was no debate or even discussion at Council. The only public defence against rising policing costs appears to be comments by the Mayor and some Councillors reported in the North Shore News about $26,000 in police lab costs being downloaded by the Province.
Negotiations would have taken place over an extended period of time. We can’t know if Council was kept informed since it’s City policy is to keep negotiations with the District confidential on the grounds that they are ‘commercially sensitive’. Given both sides in these negotiations are public sector, taxpayer funded entities it’s hard to see how the public interest is served by this secrecy. More likely City and District officials would prefer not be seen to be taking positions that serve their organization’s interest and not the public at large.
When 90% of citizens think North Vancouver is one community, and it is for most services that are most visible every day, why does there have to be two different communities for policing purposes? And how did this happen without taxpayers and the public being told?
Do governments get to define community? Even when it goes against the grain of everything other community-defining activity, such as education, health, social, culture, recreation and geography? An assumption about community affects the way costs are shared for many government, cultural, recreational and social services used or enjoyed by everyone in a community but located in the core.
A incorrect or distorted assumption about relevant community will have long term consequences for planning development and infrastructure. Bad decisions will be made regarding the capacity of street and roads to handle development, or where to build recreation centres.
Citizens in these will either get caught up in the inevitable name-calling and bickering and pick sides as two taxpayer funded organizations ‘compete’ with each other. Alternatively they will ignore it all, not even try to sort through the confusion to figure out of their tax dollars are being used properly and lose confidence in the public sector in general.
Does this sound familiar? We need a more common sense approach.