Blue Line

News
OPP says new billing model fair and transparent


February 3, 2015
By Tony Palermo

The new billing model the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) rolled out for 2015 is fair and replaces a severely outdated process, the commander of the force’s municipal policing bureau says.

“Let’s be honest, some municipalities have enjoyed unrealistically low policing costs with the OPP for many years, while others have paid much higher per household due to an outdated billing process,” says Supt. Rick Philbin. “The new model is fair, transparent and better reflects the actual costs of policing the individual communities we serve.”

Philbin says the old model was established nearly two decades ago when Bill 105 was enacted. In part, it required all municipalities, regardless of population or size, to provide policing services to constituents. Specifically, it addressed a discrepancy which, at the time, saw the OPP police some 20 municipalities under contract while also policing approximately 500 others at no cost.

Although the old OPP billing allowed the province to recover the costs of policing municipalities, it was based on a reactive deployment model that still didn’t take the entire scope – or cost – of policing into account. For example, Philbin says the old model used 97 criminal-related calls for service to apportion work load and determine the number of officers required to police the front line of each community.

Advertisment

The reactive based model didn’t take into account proactive policing activities like traffic enforcement, administrative costs such as training and report writing, or other functions or other costs that occur before the first call for service is made.

Based on the 97 calls-for-service categories and billing model, this resulted in smaller communities paying well below the actual cost to police their area, while larger municipalities paid more.

“Our average policing cost in 2013 was $363 per household, but we had many smaller communities paying under $200 per household and larger ones well above the $400 mark, than we did around that middle range,” explains Philbin. “In fact, we had some communities who were paying between $800 and $900 per household, and some who didn’t even receive a bill in 2014.”

He points to Cockburn Island in the Manitoulin District as an example of an area that didn’t have to pay any policing costs. As Philbin says, sure, it’s a very quiet place but at the end of the day, it is still responsible for offering residents a fully functioning police service.

“It’s like an insurance policy,” says Philbin. “I’ve been paying insurance on my car for the last 30 years. Thankfully, I haven’t had to use it, but that doesn’t mean I still don’t have to pay for having it (available to use).”

{How it works}

Under the new model, two components are used to determine the amount a municipality is billed for policing costs billed: a standard base cost and number of calls for service.

The base cost, which includes services such as routine patrol, crime prevention, RIDE programs and other proactive policing initiatives, makes up about 60 per cent of the bill. It’s calculated using a standard base rate multiplied by the total number of properties (commercial, industrial and residential) in the municipality.

For 2015, the base rate is $203 per property; the number of properties for each OPP patrolled municipality is determined using Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) data.

The standard base rate represents the overall base cost to operate the OPP, including infrastructure, administration and having officers available to proactively police and ready to answer calls for service. Civilian and sworn member salaries and benefits account for approximately 90 per cent of the base rate, with the rest going towards other direct operating expenditures.

This total base cost is shared by each OPP patrolled municipality with a formula that basically takes the total cost to operate the service, and then divides it by the total number of OPP patrolled properties. That makes each municipality responsible for its equitable share.

For example, Cockburn Island, which has 91 properties but didn’t pay for police services in 2014, now faces a total base cost in 2015 of approximately $18,000 (calculated by multiplying $203 by the island’s 91 properties.)

The remaining 40 per cent of the bill is based on reactive calls for service. Philbin says calls are broken down into 10 time standards, all with different hours attributed based on provincial time averages to handle that type of call.

This part of the bill varies between municipalities depending on the number and types of calls for service logged. Essentially, each municipality pays their weighted share for each call for service category, based on usage level averaged over the last four years, and weighed against the provincial total number of hours for that call for service category.

Cockburn Island is expected to pay an additional $1,000 for its calls for service.

The Town of Perth is an example of a municipality expected to save money under the new model. It has 3,387 registered properties and paid approximately $2.3 million in 2014 for policing. Under the new model, Perth will pay a base policing cost of approximately $700,000. Add calls for service and the town will pay about $1.9 million in 2015 – $400,000 less than the year before.

The new model is revenue-neutral and is being phased in over the next five years. Municipalities like Cockburn Island, which will pay more, will see property increments increase $40 a year until they reach their true policing cost.

Municipalities that paid more under the old model will see costs reduce over the next five years, starting with an $18 cap per property in the first year.

“At the end of the day, my goal was to make this model affordable, transparent and fair,” says Philbin. “The OPP is a public service with satisfaction surveys in the high 90s. Yes, some municipalities have been critical of the new model. Policing is expensive and I’m not diminishing that, but at the end of the day, it’s about community safety and having a fair billing system to pay for the service.”

SIDEBAR

OPP QUICK FACTS

  • The OPP provides municipal policing services to 324 municipalities throughout Ontario, while also meeting additional provincial policing commitments to all 444 Ontario municipalities.

  • The OPP is also responsible for traffic safety on provincial roadways, waterways and trails, policing over 969,000 square kilometres of land and more than 94,000 square kilometres of water.

  • The OPP operates out of 77 host detachments and 89 satellite offices, five provincial communications centres, five regional headquarters, one divisional headquarters and a general headquarters.

  • The purpose of the new billing model is to recover policing costs in a way that is equitable for all municipalities. It is revenue neutral for the province.

  • Under the new model, municipal policing bills are split between base costs and calls for service on an approximate 60/40 split.

  • The new model is being phased in over a period of up to five years with annual caps on changes in policing costs that occur as a result of the new billing model, providing stability and predictability for both taxpayers and municipalities.

  • OPP policing services provided to First Nations communities are tracked in the daily activity reporting system to ensure these costs are not passed down to municipalities.

For additional information and detailed examples, visit the municipal policing section of the OPP’s web site (ww.opp.ca).

tony@tonypalermo.ca