Surrey residents craving to know just how much the city’s transition process from the Surrey RCMP to a city-made Surrey Police Service will cost taxpayers will have to wait a while longer to find out.
Surrey Police Board member Elizabeth Model said Tuesday that the board must submit a provisional Surrey Police Operational/Transition budget for 2021 to the City of Surrey by Nov. 30, as is required under the Police Act.
During the board’s third meeting so far Model, chairwoman of the finance committee, also said the board’s finance committee has met with city staff “on several occasions” to review year-to-date 2020 budget numbers related to the policing transition.
“We will start reporting publicly on those numbers in November once we’ve had the opportunity to review an ongoing report template and ensure it meets our needs and it gives the public, Surrey citizens and the business community the information we want and we deserve,” she said.
That means anyone hoping to learn how much the Surrey policing transition has cost taxpayers to date will have to wait until after the Oct. 24 provincial election has come and gone.
Shortly after Tuesday’s meeting got underway, under Questions and Answers – Emails from Citizens, resident Debi Johnstone inquired of the board how much has been spent to date on the transition and if there are any updates on final costing for taxpayers. Model replied that this would be covered when she presented her report on interim financial measures later in the meeting.
“As for the 2021 budget, the finance committee will be working with the city to ratify that budget,” Model said. “When the chief is hired they will have the input regarding next year’s costs and the budget and it can be amended up to and until March 2021. The 2021 budget will be submitted to council by Nov. 30 and this is based on legislative requirements” under the Police Act.
“As with any budgeting exercise, this information will be made public once approved by city council,” she said. “Unfortunately in its draft form, it is not appropriate for the board to release this information,” Model said.
Model said, concerning the next steps for the 2021 budget, that the board and City will collaborate on three tasks, namely, to determine the “compensation and related overhead” for various positions and levels in the new police department, to verify requirements for one-time transition costs for the balance of the transition, and to confirm and ratify the Surrey Police Operational/Transition budget for 2021 so the provisional budget deadline can be met.
“The budget is reviewed by council. The City of Surrey is responsible for the final reading, for the fees, rates, budget and bylaws, and Nov. 30 is the statutory requirement for the police board to submit their financial plan,” Model said.
“The chief constable will have the direct input put in place for appropriate financial policies and procedures,” she said.
The chief has yet to be identified.
Once he or she is hired, the chief will provide direction to “ensure appropriate financial policies and procedures” that support the new police force, including ensuring “best practice” in budget management and managing the transition and establishment costs. Model noted the chief’s duties will also include building an integrated financial management system, ensuring financial reporting requirements are met and establishing the police service financial management support model.
The next police board meeting is Nov. 20.
Meantime, Ivan Scott, organizer of the Keep the RCMP in Surrey campaign, says he’s still waiting for some transparency.
“I thinks it’s becoming a bit of a sham, to be quite honest,” he said. “I know that there’s been thousands of questions, virtually thousands of letters that have been sent to the board from very, very concerned citizens.
“I just don’t know where this whole thing is going,” Scott said. “It was supposed to be transparent and there’s no transparency basically any more.”
At Surrey council’s inaugural meeting on Nov. 5th, 2018 it served notice to the provincial and federal governments it is ending its contract with the RCMP – which has policed these parts since May 1, 1951 – to set up its own force. Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth on Aug. 22, 2019 gave the city the go-ahead to pursue the plan.
The Surrey Police Service is expected to have 805 police officers, 325 civilian employees,and 20 community safety personnel who will take on lower priority, less risky, and less complex duties in order to” better leverage” frontline officers, All told, 84 per cent of the officers will be constables.
Surrey RCMP, in comparison, has 1,145 employees, 843 of which are police officers.
Model said Tuesday that civilian staff will transfer over to the Surrey Police Service in 2021.
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