Cornwall 2019 police budget clears board with 1.99% increase

Cornwall Police Chief Danny Aikman, right, explains the department's 2019 budget to the police board on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019, while Deputy Chief Shawna Spowart listens. The budget has a 1.99 per cent increase. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – The Cornwall Police Board endorsed the department’s 2019 budget Tuesday morning (Feb. 26) with a 1.99 per cent increase.

The roughly $19 million budget is $372,418 more than than last year – mostly due to wages and benefits for police officers that are tied to collective agreements.

Police Chief Danny Aikman told the board that 87 per cent of the budget is for staffing, including their pay and benefits. Even though the increase in the union contact is 1.85 per cent this year, that’s more like a 2.25 per cent increase when you tack on benefits, the chief explained.

There was also a $27,898 increase in the budget for services and rents – part of that is for establishing a provincially-mandated employee wellness plan to help officers with mental health issues. A roughly $41,000 increase in capital was due to replacement of police cruisers and other police vehicles, which is part of an ongoing replacement plan.

To offset those costs, the force is projecting it will bring in about $1.2 million in grants and funding from other organizations and governments.

Mayor Bernadette Clement called it a “responsible” budget and said she “felt comfortable” with passing it.

“We operate as close to the line as we can,” Chief Aikman said in an interview with Cornwall Newswatch. “We’re providing adequate and effective policing with the budget.”

While crime has been trending down in Cornwall (the most recent figures are from 2017), the chief says that doesn’t alleviate the workload on front line officers. “The complexity of investigations. The amount of administrative things that are involved in conducting criminal processes has increased dramatically over the years. Investigations that in years gone by would have taken up about an hour’s of an officer’s time are taking up an entire shift now.”

On the horizon, the chief does see a future outlay of money to upgrade the police radio system but that’s “a couple of years down the road.”

The Cornwall Police Service budget now goes to the budget committee for approval and then to council for its final endorsement.