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No new police hires in Coquitlam budget
Coquitlam homeowners will see an average $95 jump in their property taxes and utility bills next year.
On Monday, city council gave fourth and final reading to the 2013 budget, which sees a $16 increase in the water rate, an $8 rise in the sewer and drainage levy, and a $7 hike in the garbage/recycling rate, as well as an average increase of $64 in property taxes.
That translates to a total bill of about $2,911 in municipal and Metro Vancouver fees next year for a home with the statistically average assessed value of $565,000.
The extra taxes add eight new firefighters to build up staffing levels for a Burke Mountain firehall, among other things.
But council set aside no new cash next year to hire more Mounties — a move that Mayor Richard Stewart said is intended to allow the city of Port Coquitlam to "catch up" on funding cops.
PoCo, which shares the RCMP detachment with Coquitlam, hasn't added new police officers for two years, a decision that goes against the joint crime-reduction strategy in seeing more cops added annually to meet demands in the two cities (this year, Coquitlam hired two more officers while in 2011 it hired four).
"We're taking a break [in hiring], largely because Port Coquitlam hasn't caught up," Stewart said Tuesday. "We're trying to give Port Coquitlam the opportunity to catch up because we have an agreement that we're partners in the detachment."
Stewart also said council met this fall with civic department heads to hear their wish lists for next year and Coquitlam RCMP Supt. Claude Wilcott "didn't put anything forward" as he acknowledged financial pressures (Wilcott was not available for comment before press time yesterday).
Stewart said he hopes to meet with Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore in January to discuss future policing needs in the two cities, which for years have had among the lowest police-to-population ratios in B.C. for municipalities of their size (Statistics Canada is expected to unveil its national cop-to-pop. rates in February).
But Moore argued PoCo hired additional police five years ago when Coquitlam didn't and "we're going to choose our police compliment based on what we think the needs of Port Coquitlam are, not based on what the city of Coquitlam wants to hire for."
He added, "It's up to the RCMP to manage the resources that they're given."
As for 2013, Moore said PoCo council hasn't debated the budget yet but "I suspect the RCMP will be asking for additional officers."
Further, he said: "We don't just look at the cop-to-pop ratio. We look at the crime statistics and the case load and the closure rate. We're not looking at how many police officers we have compared to New Westminster or North Vancouver."
Moore said PoCo is keen to continue sharing an RCMP detachment with Coquitlam despite his city recently taking part in a study with other Lower Mainland municipalities to consider future policing options (the results of that report have yet to be presented to PoCo council).
"We're completely committed to the current policing model that we have," Moore said.
Coquitlam is typically one of the first Metro Vancouver municipalities to pass its annual budget, with the aim to get a jump-start on bidding for capital projects in the new year.