Last week, City Council discussed the proposed Edmonton Police Service Funding Formula. The proposed formula passed 9-4. I was one of the four councillors who voted against the formula. I wanted to share some of my rationale and have included a copy of my closing comments below.
Note that this discussion has been ongoing for months so this blog does not dive into the background behind this debate. For more context on my position, please read my earlier blog post on the Police Funding Formula.
Also note that this is a short excerpt from a day long discussion. If you wish to listen to my lines of questioning or questions and comments from Council colleagues, city administration, or the Edmonton Police Commission you can do so here.
"I want to start by thanking everyone who has been working hard on this formula for the last few years. I realize it’s a massive undertaking and one that is riddled with complexity. At the end of the day, we all want an efficient, effective, and adequately resourced police service. Police are absolutely an important part of our social safety ecosystem and a key component of our approach to community safety and wellbeing alongside preventative, proactive approaches. In order for something to be efficient and effective, we need the right tools, mechanisms, and methods in place to do that.
While I am not opposed to a formula in principle, I remain concerned about a number of components included in the formula as it is currently proposed, several of which were highlighted today.
As was shared earlier, we are effectively approving a (funding) cap at the high water mark of police funding. Instituting a cap at this level is essentially a consolidation of gains and I am uncomfortable with the quality and quantity of evidence to justify why this is the correct cap.
I can appreciate a desire for certainty, stability and predictability, but we also need certainty, stability, and predictability surrounding the outcomes Edmontonians can expect to see for the investment we are making.
I am uncomfortable supporting a formula that would see funding allocated through this mechanism without knowing whether Edmontonians are going to see an adequate return on investment and tangible improvements to community safety and wellbeing in their neighbourhoods in the ways they have been asking for.
I remain concerned that salary settlements exist wholly outside of the formula. Similarly, I remain concerned about a formula that does not seem to adequately account for increased demand for policing related to the funding of new civic infrastructure. It concerns me that we heard conflicting responses around what the formula does or does not cover related to operating costs of city capital projects. While we heard that there are no service packages on the immediate horizon, I am not confident that we won’t see requests in this realm even if the formula is approved. Similarly, I am not convinced that when the cap is reached we won’t see requests for amendments to that cap.
Finally, I share concerns around using expenditures as a starting point instead of tax supported funding. For those reasons, I am unable to support the formula as presented today."