Metchosin councillors were forced to swallow a bitter pill Monday night when they were presented with the initial estimates for policing costs in the community that has now exceeded a population of 5,000.
The 2021 census results had Metchosin’s population at 5,067, surpassing the 5,000 threshold where a community becomes responsible for paying 70 per cent of its policing costs (with the remainder paid by the federal government).
In an interview, Mayor John Ranns said council would have three choices to pay for policing: a “punishing” tax increase, boost residential development to increase Metchosin’s population – which Ranns ruled out – or approve industrial zoning projects, something Ranns called the “Highlands model.” He added any decision would go to a referendum and ultimately be made by council.
“Reserve funds will be used to cushion the blow and buy us time to find alternative sources of revenue.”
Metchosin has been on the hook for covering the costs of its police services since April 1 – with reserve funds covering those costs. Exactly how much policing will cost is still being determined.
West Shore RCMP Insp. Todd Preston presented three options to council on Monday: work within the West Shore RCMP detachment, establish its own detachment or partner with another RCMP detachment like Sooke RCMP.
Preston said that for a community of its size, Metchosin would need a ratio of one police officer for every 875 people, meaning the district would need to pay for six officers. Added to those costs are two support staff (the ratio for officers to support staff is 3 to 1), a number of service costs that come with being within the West Shore RCMP detachment and 5.8 per cent of the rental costs of the West Shore RCMP detachment as office space for those staff. At $200,000 per officer (30 per cent covered by the federal government), plus $60,000 to 70,000 for each support staff (100 per cent Metchosin), the costs would come to just under $1 million, not including rent for an office and other service fees.
“Without question, the West Shore is the most complex detachment, certainly in British Columbia, if not in the country, in terms of integrated resources from various municipalities. But this creates huge efficiencies,” said Preston, presenting to Metchosin councillors on Monday. He pointed to things like police dogs, which can be expensive, plus other programs like an insurance program to cover costs associated with expensive investigations.
Ranns said that the insurance program’s importance was highlighted when Metchosin had a murder investigation last year, which had extensive costs. He added that the insurance program is why Metchosin likely won’t align with Sooke RCMP, since they don’t pay into that program.
Ranns said with Metchosin already on the hook for costs, this is something that needs to be figured out quickly.
“We’ve known this is coming. I guess as I look back in retrospect when we first thought that we were going to go over – and that was about 10 to 15 years ago now – it’s too bad we didn’t because it would have been less expensive in the long run.”
Preston said he would present more concrete numbers for renting West Shore RCMP costs in a couple of weeks.
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