Budget 2009: Police big winners, arts and culture takes back seat

Post by Daniel Fontaine in ,

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Police Laurel Hardy
Chief of Police advised Mayor Hardy and Council that it's budget time again

As part of our ongoing series analyzing Vancouver's proposed Budget 2009, we are looking at who some of the big winners and losers might be once council finalizes their budget deliberations later this spring.

No big surprise here, the Vancouver Police Department are big winners (yet again) when it comes to the overall cash intake. If the budget is approved as is, they will have raked in a massive $13,299,000 budget increase compared to last year. Believe it or not, this budget increase is despite a previous NPA administration who had the audacity of trying to reign in overall police spending. While in opposition, Vision Councillors wanted to provide the department with the equivalent of a proverbial blank cheque to add even more money to the police budget.

In an earlier post, we reported how demoralizing it was for other department heads to face off against the police armed with a crack communications and marketing department pitching the latest budget request to Council. Based on this budget hike, you can understand their concern. While the police budget is going up, the budgets for some other departments are taking a big hit.

In Budget 2009 appendix 1, pages 19-21, you will find a list of proposed departmental budgets. The police department are expected to get a 7.2% hike, while the cultural affairs department will see a cut of almost 10%. Here are a few other highlites:

  • Downtown South Gathering Place budget is cut by 9.0%
  • Animal control budget is cut by 2.4%
  • Permits and licences is cut by 3.1%
  • Community services administration cut by 20.7%
  • Archives is going up by 7.4%
  • Social Housing Department is going up by 12.9%

Despite having attacked the previous NPA adminstration for doing it, Vision is also moving forward to increase the City's contingency fund (aka slush fund...or at least that's what Vision used to call it while in opposition) by a whopping 29%.  The "slush fund" will be jacked up from $3.1 million to $4.0 million this year alone.

The contingency "slush" fund is the perennial favourite of civic politicians wanting to sock away cash to pay for pet projects in the latter part of the calendar year - without having to go back to the taxpayer for approval. Granted, this is something parties and politicians of all stripes have partaken in. However, given how much Vision publicly opposed it, you could argue this big increase is one big broken promise.

In my discussions with City staff over the last few weeks, you can certainly tell there are a lot of demoralized folks over at 12th and Cambie. The fact that Vision is so willing to pour another $13 million dollars into the police budget while not asking them to cut back on even a few token items is rubbing a few folks the wrong way.

Despite the fact that crime rates continue to plummet, police budgets continue to skyrocket. With the public on heightened alert due to increased violence from gang warfare fueled by the drug trade, you can expect Vision's police budget funding makes for good politics.

We recommend that CityCaucus.com readers check out Ian Mulgrew's piece in the Vancouver Sun today to determine if adding more police to Vancouver's streets is going to make a major dent in gang violence.


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