Dryden's OPP costs continue to go up

DRYDEN — The cost of Ontario Provincial Police service continues to go up.

Dryden’s draft operating budget for 2024 pegs policing costs at $751,800 higher than in 2023. That includes $663,450 — or nearly 13 per cent — more in OPP annual billing.

Inflation is one factor in the big jump in policing costs, city treasurer Steven Lansdell-Roll said.

He said another factor is “reconciliation” — additional costs relating to the turnover of policing to the OPP in 2022 being paid in 2024. Yet another is that Dryden won’t receive a policing grant in 2024, unlike in 2023.

Coun. Michelle Price said the OPP billing is worth it.

“Am I happy that it’s going up? Obviously not, because it’s extremely expensive,” she said Thursday from her business in downtown Dryden.

“But I would rather have a safe community than not, and I know that’s what OPP is doing for us at this point. You know, it is ensuring our safety.”

Price said there has been “a noticeable difference” for the better in the downtown area since the OPP began policing the city in 2022, taking over from a disbanded municipal police force.

The city completed a transition from a municipal police service to OPP in February 2022. The switch has proven more expensive than expected, as Dryden pays more per capita for OPP service than nearby Kenora or any other Ontario city.

The 2024 draft budget includes another property tax hike after the 2.65 per cent increase in 2023. A 6.47 per cent increase is proposed for 2024.

Besides policing, the city is budgeting for increased costs in other areas including labour, insurance premiums and social services levies.

Coun. Bryan Tardiff, who chairs the finance committee, said the OPP billing tally is higher than expected but not very surprising given “the calls-for-service reports we’ve been getting from the OPP and what’s going on out there.”

Calls for service are the basis of much of the OPP’s bill to the city, he said Friday, and “it has ballooned out of control.”

Dryden policing costs have been driven up by criminals from outside the city, he said.

“It’s stuff far beyond our control and not what the taxpayers were sold on what they were going to be paying for,” he said.

Mayor Jack Harrison and Kenora’s mayor were scheduled to meet with Ontario Solicitor General Michael Kerzner in Toronto on Thursday to discuss policing costs and the province’s share of the burden. Harrison did not reply to requests for an interview on Friday.

Mike Stimpson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source