District municipalities will be facing a $218.35 per household annual bill starting Jan. 1 as the province tries to bring fairness to paying for policing in Ontario.
“It’s less than what we thought it was going to be,” admitted Chapple Clerk Doris Dyson, who said they had estimated the cost to come in around $280 per household.
“It’s just the fact that we’ve never been, theoretically, billed for it before,” noted Emo Reeve Brian Reid, who also said it could be worse. Those in Kenora district, for instance, were facing a bill of more than $700 per household.
“If we want policing and we have to pay for it, there probably isn’t a viable option,” Reeve Reid added.
Only Fort Frances won’t be facing the added cost because the town already pays $469.70 per household for the OPP.
“Now that’s more than our contract with the OPP,” noted CAO Bill Naturkach, noting there were added costs here such as civilian staff, premises, and the police services board.
Municipal Affairs and Housing minister Al Leach last week gave the long-awaited figures to the 576 municipalities receiving OPP policing at no direct cost to their municipal taxpayers.
And though it was broken down on a per household basis, Graham Gleason, manager for OPP contract policing in Orillia, said it was up to local councils to decide how it would be billed out.
He noted industrial and commercial taxpayers, nor other property owners, weren’t factored into the cost equation, and some municipalities may choose to spread some of the expense on to them.
Also what isn’t known yet is if the new price tag will lead to changes in the way the district is policed.
“I think it’s in everybody’s best interest to look at all their options,” Gleason said, adding five basic ones were open to the incorporated areas now facing an added bill:
oremain status quo;
oseek its own contract with the OPP;
ojoin other municipalities to seek a contract with the OPP;
ocreate its own police force; or
ocontract out to a neighbouring police force.
The OPP will continue to patrol the affected communities while each municipality decides how best to provide the service.
But Fort Frances OPP Sgt. Don Robertson didn’t anticipate any staffing changes as a result of the announcement.
“If a community created its own police force, it would affect staffing,” he said, noting if that happened, the officers designated to that area would have the option of staying with the OPP or changing to the municipal one.
Meanwhile, what’s still missing from the equation is the cost for unincorporated areas and First Nations.
“Those costs will be on top of what’s already been handed down,” Gleason explained.
Stephanie Boulton, a spokesperson with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, said they were waiting for numbers from the Ministry of Finance before those costs could be calculated.