St. Mary’s council weighs options in face of high policing costs

·2 min read

ST. MARY’S – Council for the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s is questioning whether it can maintain its level of policing without more help from the provincial government.

The issue was raised during a regular council meeting on June 13 after an extensive examination of the most recent Municipal Service Exchange Renegotiation (MSER) survey from the province, which was sent to local elected officials for consideration last month.

The MSER, announced last fall, is designed to give local governments greater say over municipal spending priorities funded by the province, but St. Mary’s councillors wondered how much elbow room they actually have given the dramatic increase in the RCMP budget last year.

“I think that’s something that definitely needs to be looked at,” Warden Greg Wier said. “[It’s] whether municipalities can maintain proper policing, [the costs of] which have gone up way more than the cost of living.”

Last March, St. Mary’s Director of Finance Marian Fraser stunned councillors when she announced that the price for policing the municipality would rise by 11.04 per cent in 2022-23, an increase of $76,000 over the previous fiscal year.

In 2021-22, the budget for RCMP and Corrections was $537,387, compared with $525,542 the year before. The number for the 2022-23 fiscal year hovered just over $600,000 mark, at about 20 per cent of St. Mary’s annual operating budget of $3 million.

Said Wier at the recent council meeting: “To make it more equitable across the system, no one should pay more than a certain percentage to policing. If we’re paying 20 per cent, and Guysborough [Municipality of the District of Guysborough] is paying 11 per cent, that’s definitely not equitable [when policing is] coming out of the same office.”

For the 2022-23 fiscal year, the Municipality of the District of Guysborough posted RCMP expenses of $1.6 million, less than eight per cent of its $20.6 million budget.

Said Deputy Warden James Fuller: “Look into the statutes that do provide for either provincial police or allow regionalization; you know, Cape Breton has regional police and New Glasgow takes care of Trenton. There might be a couple of ways we could go about this.”

Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal

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