Spending on Sarnia’s police service in 2022 was very close to what was budgeted.
A “modest” $24,000 operating surplus — less than 0.1 per cent of the service’s $27.3-million budget that year — was reported at the recent police service board meeting.
But the results aren’t exactly as mapped out and are more a confluence of offsetting variances, said financial services director Cathy Dam.
Most of the savings came from wages and benefits, amid senior officers retiring and new recruits coming in at a lower rate, police officials said in a report.
Those and other savings, including $50,000 less spent on insurance than expected and an extra $45,000 in provincial grants, were mostly offset by higher legal costs “primarily related to legacy matters,” more expensive vehicle operations, higher costs for software and technology, and overtime to because of front-line shortages, officials said in the report..
Increased figures for vehicle maintenance and fuel costs have been incorporated into the budget plan for 2024, but may have to be increased again if prices remain where they are, Dam said.
Board chairperson Paul Wiersma said he was pleased with the end result.
“Obviously you don’t want to be in deficit, but on the other hand, it doesn’t look good if you have a huge surplus either,” he said.
Overtime costs also factor into major investigations like missing persons cases, he said.
“Budgeting is not an exact science, but I’m glad to see that we weren’t in deficit,” he said. “I think that’s a testimony to the work of the staff in terms of keeping on eye on that sort of stuff.”
The 2023 police budget was set at $30.4 million, an 11.5 per cent increase.
Planning for 2024’s budget begins soon, the police report to the board says.
“A review of variances will be used to inform the need to make adjustments to the various categories where other options are not feasible,” it says.