The Ottawa Police Services Board has approved a draft operating budget for 2024 of $415.5 million — a $13.4 million increase.
In its budget request, Ottawa police said the new funding will be used to hire more full-time officers as part of a Staff Stabilization Strategy. In addition, the money will go toward data and equity, diversity and inclusion programs.
As part of the three-year Staff Stabilization Strategy, expected to begin in 2024, the service plans to add 25 net new positions next year. In the three years, the service says it plans to fill 555 sworn and civilian positions, about 185 hires a year to fill vacancies caused by resignation and retirement and new positions.
During a media availability before the board meeting, Police Chief Eric Stubbs said the service will be able to meet its first-year goals with a 2.5 per cent police tax levy increase.
But Stubbs said the OPS would “need more of a percentage increase” to achieve the strategy goals in its second and third years. But he stopped short of offering specific numbers, citing “a lot of different dynamics” that go into creating the budget for a given year.
Deputy Chief Steve Bell said the force is seeing a rise in resignations and retirements, which he said is expected to amount to a loss of 70 members.
Overall, the police budget increase is estimated to put an additional $17 on the tax bill of the average urban household, bringing the total for policing to $697 per average household.
The document also projects the 2025 “incremental budget requirement” at $24.8M, or a 5.6 per cent tax increase based upon factors such as promotions, inflation and the Staff Stabilization Strategy.
Since 2017, the annual police tax increase has not gone above three per cent.
When asked about the higher tax projection, Bell said some projects have been pushed to 2025 and beyond, including a planned rollout of body-worn and in-car cameras.
Furthermore, Bell said staffing costs will rise as the force completes hiring under the Staff Stabilization Strategy.
“We do the new hiring later in the year, and actually absorb more of the cost in later years as we move ahead,” Bell added.
According to the budget book, the OPS “polices the largest geographical footprint” and ranks ninth out of Canada’s “Big 12” police jurisdictions.
When compared to other police services in Ontario, the OPS says its 2024 tax increase “is currently the lowest in the province” assuming other boards and city councils approve their planned tax increases.
The document notes the average tax increase being tabled across the province is 8.4 per cent.
Ottawa city council will vote on the entire 2024 budget, including police funding, on Dec. 6.