Police board chair worries $9.6 million budget shortfall could lead to layoffs

The Winnipeg Police Service could face a big financial hole at the end of the year.

A second quarter financial report to the Winnipeg Police Board says the pandemic and pension plan pressures are contributing to an estimated $9.6 million shortfall.

The report suggests because of a drop in traffic from the pandemic, photo radar revenue is down from forecast by about $4 million. On top of that, a police pension revaluation is costing an additional $5.7 million. The report also says the service has not fully reached a savings target of $6.1 million, needed mainly to offset the city’s failed attempt to overhaul the police pension plan.

Police Board Chair Councillor Markus Chambers says the city needs to cover the new pension cost, not the service.

“It would be extremely difficult to impose this on the Winnipeg Police Service budget,” Chambers said.

Otherwise, he worries about the possibility of layoffs.

“Especially with the $5.7 million now on the table, I’m very much concerned around that,” he said.

“It would impact not only the members of the Winnipeg Police Service but also the cadets.”

An increase to the police budget could be a tough ask in this era of the Defund the Police movement.

City Finance Chair Scott Gillingham says the police pension falls within the police budget.

“Ultimately these are policing costs, these are labour costs associated with the police service and police members, and so it’s appropriate that these be recorded as policing expenses,” Gillingham said.

The police board chair is also looking ahead for help. The current contract with the police union expires this year. Chambers says he’s hoping for a “reasonable” new contract.

“That looks at salaries and benefits, looks at, you know, what is needed to be a team player as we move forward,” Chambers said.

A spokesperson for Police Chief Danny Smyth says he won’t comment on the report until it is tabled at police board Friday.