Dec 17, 2021

South Island mayors request deferment of E-Comm 9-1-1 funding download

Already facing pandemic-related recovery budget planning, eight municipalities on southern Vancouver Island are now struggling with the added burden of $3.59 million in E-Comm 9-1-1 funding downloaded from the Federal and Provincial governments.
Just over a year ago, the eight dispatch area municipalities (Colwood, Ladysmith, Langford, North Cowichan, North Saanich, Sidney, Sooke, and View Royal) were informed of the pending download of 100 per cent of the costs for RCMP E-Comm 9-1-1 dispatch calls to their municipal budgets.
Currently, these costs are covered by senior governments: 30 per cent Federal and 70 per cent Provincial. The announcement, made without consultation with municipalities, is set to take effect April 1, 2022, well into the fiscal budget year for municipalities that begin January 1.
On December 17, the municipalities delivered a letter to Mike Farnsworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, asking for urgent action on this issue. At the very minimum, the municipalities are requesting this downloaded cost be delayed while a fulsome review and consultation is conducted.
The letter to Minister Farnworth states, in part: “With so many policing cost increases to local governments in recent years, including the additional costs related to the new RCMP contract, we trust you can understand why another burden such as the one proposed by downloading the RCMP E-Comm 9-1-1 dispatch costs is untenable.”
Historically, the RCMP 9-1-1 dispatch call service has been funded through federal and provincial budgets, an arrangement that has been in place since the most recent RCMP/Municipal Police Unit Agreement(s) were finalized in 2012. That arrangement remains in place for many other regions throughout B.C., but, inexplicably, is set to expire next year for only the South Vancouver Island Dispatch region.

The downloaded costs to South Vancouver Island municipalities are set to begin in 2022, and the Province is proposing to phase them in over three years. For local property tax payers, these additional costs come at a time when local governments are struggling with pandemic-related budgets.

As stated in the letter to Minister Farnworth, the financial impact of this download “will place many of (the affected) jurisdictions in a position of potentially having to forego additional policing resources in our communities. This comes at a time when the public pressures for us to increase those resources continue to grow due to a variety of issues, including escalating street disorder brought on by the opioid crisis.”
The letter asks the Minister for three things:

- A one year delay in the initial phase-in of the download, currently set to take effect in April 2022.

- Consultation at the Local Government Contract Management Committee, with the objective of a more equitable application of the download to all Dispatch jurisdictions that are currently benefiting from the 70/30 split

- An extension of the phase-in from 3 years to a longer period of time to allow local governments more time to absorb the extra costs.

The mayors of the eight municipalities, including Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, are hopeful their request will be heeded, and that these downloaded costs can be averted for the 2022 budget year.