The City of Rossland considers a policing fund for when community reaches population of 5,000. Photo: Jim Bailey

The City of Rossland considers a policing fund for when community reaches population of 5,000. Photo: Jim Bailey

Rossland to start a Policing Reserve Fund

Rossland staff recommends saving account for eventual police force funding

Rossland city council has voted to add a policing reserve fund to its upcoming budget.

The policing fund is in preparation for the inevitable, when Rossland’s population hits the 5,000 mark.

In the 2022-2026 Budget and Financial Plan Preview, staff recommended council consider the potential growth, as the city’s population, according to a 2016 Stats Canada census, was already at 3,729.

The provincial government funds 70 per cent of policing costs for municipalities with less than 5,000 residents, however, once cities growth exceeds 5,000, the municipality must pay 70 per cent of its policing costs.

“Best practice in mid-to-long range financial planning for this event would be to establish a reserve fund in order to smooth transition cost burden over multiple years to avoid a significant tax increase in the year the increase would come into effect,” read the staff report.

Rossland’s budget also anticipates that city taxes from 2022-26 will be raised an average of 2.5 per cent per year. Mayor Kathy Moore said she would like to see taxation remain consistent, and unaffected by the policing fund.

“We want to have financial stability and taxation stability,” said Moore. “One of the things we want to do is have taxation be fair and regular and predictable, not go up and down and back and forth, that makes it harder for people.”

Under the BC Police Act, municipalities over 5,000 residents must provide policing and law enforcement either by one of three means. A city must provide and maintain its own municipal police department; or enter into an agreement with the province under which policing and law enforcement in the municipality will be provided by the RCMP; or enter into an agreement with an adjacent municipality that has a municipal police department.

Rossland currently contributes $233,000 to the Greater Trail and District RCMP services.

City staff say that amount could more than double, potentially costing about $500,000 if it had to fund its own force.

“Communities that have made the jump from 4,999 to 5,001 they just got hammered,” said Mayor Moore. “Just look at Creston. It’s a terrible system, but it is the system that’s there, so we have to prepare for it.”

The glaring inequity was brought to light in Creston whose population went over 5,000 in 2011, and the town became responsible for the majority of policing costs.

The result was a 34 per cent increase in property taxes for home owners within the city limits, contended Creston Coun. Jim Elford in a June letter to Black Press Media.

“For example, in 2021, a home in Creston with a property assessment of $237,000 pays $264.52 annually for policing,” wrote Elford.

“A rural property in RDCK Area A with the same property assessment pays only $24.43 for policing.

“Further, a home in Creston that has a property assessment of $515,900 pays a policing cost of $575.81 annually, while a home with the same assessed value in a rural area pays only $53.19 in property tax.”

Creston began their own reserve fund in the early 2000s and by 2012 had more than $1 million to help ease the transition. However, even with the fund, the taxation for residents is much greater than for rural property owners.

The councillor pointed out that the cost of policing for the Town of Creston taxpayer is over 542 per cent higher than the rural taxpayers in Area B, and even more in Area A.

Rossland joined Creston in sending a submission to the Committee on Reforming the Police Act in an effort to change the outdated and inequitable funding model for policing.

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