To avoid a 5.8 per cent estimated tax increase, the Town of Hinton is urging the federal government to pay all retroactive pay increases negotiated for RCMP members.
“It is unfair for municipalities to pay for these costs as they had no voice in the bargaining process and cannot absorb the RCMP retroactive pay amounts,” a letter from council stated to the minister of public safety Canada.
For the first time ever, a collective agreement was reached between the federal government and the National Police Federation on behalf of the RCMP force, which was signed on Aug. 6, 2021. Following collective bargaining, an additional $286 million was passed on to rural taxpayers through a new rural policing model. The agreement includes back pay to 2016 for all its RCMP members from constables to staff sergeant majors, including special constables.
Since municipalities pay a portion of RCMP costs based on their size, a large chunk of this retroactive pay would fall on taxpayers.
For the Town of Hinton that would mean a one-time cost of approximately $750,000 if the back pay is downloaded to municipalities. This cost would translate to a 5.8 per cent estimated tax increase required to the taxpayer.
During the Nov. 2 regular council meeting, Coun. Stuart Taylor noted that the Town of Hinton is not in a position to increase taxes by that amount. Taylor added in the Nov. 9 meeting that the Town wasn’t made aware of the backpay requirement until after August when the agreement was signed and were unable to set aside funds.
The year-over-year financial operational impact is anticipated to be a $100,000 increase per year in operational wages, equivalent to an additional taxation increase of 0.8 per cent to the taxpayer.
Council briefly discussed the significant impact this would have on the Town of Hinton budget on Nov. 2.
Coun. Ryan Maguhn said that Ottawa is fine with putting the burden of that cost on municipalities despite municipalities having no say during the collective bargaining process. Council’s letter stated that no stakeholder updates were provided, including to municipalities, during the bargaining process.
Municipalities like Hinton with a population under 15,000 are charged 70 per cent of RCMP costs, with the federal government subsidizing the remaining costs.
Currently, the Town of Hinton has 22 full-time RCMP officers; 19 of these are paid by the Town, and the remaining three by the Province of Alberta.
The current budget for RCMP for the Town of Hinton in 2021 is $1.8 million per year, which does not include the new wage contract.
“Though the Town of Hinton stands with the RCMP’s right to collective bargaining, as upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada, we are not in the position to absorb any significant costs that arose from the tentative agreement,” council wrote in the letter to the federal government.
The fiscal shock caused by retroactive pay will go beyond threatening the sustainability of the community, the letter stated.
Prior to the collective bargaining agreement, a constable could make up to $86,110, while a staff sergeant made between $109,002 and $112,028. On April 1, 2022, pay will increase for all members by roughly $20,000. Constables will be able to earn up to $106,576, while a staff sergeant can make up to $138,657.
The changes such as economic increases, wage adjustments, and changes to allowances will be implemented within 90 days after signature of the agreement, while retroactive and prospective changes to compensation elements that require manual processing will be implemented within 450 days.
Addressing the back pay for constables in the Town of Hinton will be a topic of discussion before Council during budget deliberations.
Masha Scheele, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hinton Voice