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MJPS can transfer $307K between accounts to cover 2023 deficit, council says

Members of the police service spoke during the July 8 regular meeting and asked that councillors approve the transfer of $307,681 from the police service building renovation fund to the police service accumulated surplus account.
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(file photo)

The Moose Jaw Police Service (MJPS) finished 2023 with a deficit of $724,192, and after using its accumulated surplus to cover some portion, is asking city council to help with the rest.

Members of the police service spoke during the July 8 regular meeting and asked that councillors approve the transfer of $307,681 from the police service building renovation fund to the police service accumulated surplus account; council unanimously agreed.

The MJPS has $405,935 in its building renovation fund, which is sufficient to cover the shortfall, a council report said.

As the police service told the police board in March, the organization finished last year with an operating deficit of $724,192. The agency used $416,511 from its accumulated surplus to cover some of that outstanding amount, leaving a shortfall of $307,681.

At that meeting, police commissioners agreed to forward the MJPS’s request to council to redirect money from the agency’s capital budget to cover part of the deficit. However, the board held the financial request until after the city’s 2023 audit had been completed.

“The police service is seldom significantly under budget,” said the police board report — which, while labelled “public,” was never presented during the public meeting — contained within the council agenda package.

“However, during the budget development process, future collective bargaining estimates are included when collective agreements are about to expire or have expired.”

The police board report said that the main factors contributing to the overage last year were labour ($385,345) and employee benefits ($189,801), totalling $575,146.

Included were $370,000 in back pay after the finalization of a collective agreement with the police association and $307,000 in overtime costs. Also, the police service paid $85,000 more to Commissionaires, specifically, for additional management and transporting people in custody.

Meanwhile, the police service’s capital budget reserve has $470,139 for building renovations and an elevator replacement, the report said. Some renos are underway and are expected to cost $80,000, while other upgrades — like the elevator replacement — are currently unnecessary and can be deferred.

Therefore, the document added that removing $307,680.86 from the capital budget reserve to cover the 2023 operating overage and subtracting the $80,000 for the current renovations leaves $82,458.14 in the reserve.

Chief Rick Bourassa told council that, despite deferring some work, it completed all the capital projects it intended last year. Also, it is now saving money for future initiatives, although it can “quite comfortably move that money” should a critical infrastructure issue arise.

“It’s good that the money is there (and) is somewhere to be found. But I’m always concerned when we take money from the reserve that’s meant for … capital upgrades because, at some point, it will become critical,” said Coun. Heather Eby. “And it will be far more expensive in five years to do something than … this year.

“So I’m not a big fan (of this approach), but grateful that we have this (account) to draw from … ," she added. "Hopefully, budgeting will be more on track this coming year.”

The police service is now seeing whether the financial assumptions it made last year about revenues and expenses for this year are panning out, and the results show that costs have gone up more than expected, said Bourassa. There have also been unanticipated overtime costs, but those were due to officers participating in extensive investigations.

While the elevator’s life is concerning, it can still function for several more years without major upgrades, he added. The agency will also request funding for it in this year’s budget to ensure the project remains on track for replacement.

The next regular council meeting is Monday, July 22.