More than 50 Vernon residents showed up Tuesday evening to take part in a core review of services being conducted by KPMG for the City of Vernon. Over three hours, and divided into three groups, they worked their way through 115 "opportunities that may achieve potential cost reductions or potential revenue increases." The final report will be delivered to city council at the end of March.
An attempt by Vernon city council to hold department increases to 1.8 per cent would have resulted in decreased patrols in downtown Vernon and a potential increase in criminal activity, Burgess said.
Vernon/North Okanagan RCMP had asked for an increase of 6.7 per cent ($577,536), but holding to a 1.8 per cent hike would have resulted in an increase of $155,159.
Burgess said the additional funding will allow the force to maintain its staffing on the municipal side, but he still expects to have to cut two RCMP members from his current roster of 50, although the increase will allow him to postpone any reductions until June.
"I'll be meeting with my senior management team, and we'll try to figure out how to make the best use of the healthy bodies," Burgess said, adding that the staffing cut will likely result in a reduction in pro-active policing, such as patrols of downtown, beaches and parks, and undercover operations.
The RCMP had already postponed the purchase of improved fingerprint-processing equipment projected for 2013, a $66,960 item.
In his submission to council last Friday, Burgess noted, "To reduce policing capacity as a strategy to address normal cost increases such as wage, fuel, mandated equipment or training, and even extraordinary costs, is not sustainable and, I suggest, not a sensible nor a responsible option for addressing the core legislated business of any municipality, which includes public safety."
Mayor Rob Sawatzky said, "We are taking steps to address numerous Vernon challenges while being sensitive to the taxpayer's overall ability to pay. All city departments were instructed to contain their costs to 1.8 per cent growth or less.
"Initially, costs of all city services combined were held to an increase of 0.2 per cent. We are enhancing some services and adjusting some fees to better reflect costs of services.
"Overall, these decisions allow for 2.3 per cent additional taxation revenue. There is a reduced impact on overall property taxes by increases to fees for services. The real impact to the homeowner of a typical or average residential property is about $56."
Council may reopen budget discussions on some issues once the core service review is concluded at the end of March.
The first public meeting on the core service review took place Tuesday evening in Vernon.