The City of Lacombe Council are looking for answers after the Lacombe Police Service ran a $238,627 deficit in 2018.
The deficit led council to moving $142,963 from the Lacombe Police Service Reserve and council further requested for more accounting information round what happened.
“There was quite a bit of discussion about how that deficit would be covered in the overall context of the surplus,” Matthew Goudy, City of Lacombe CAO. “Even with that deficit in one department, the City did run a surplus and are in a really healthy financial position.”
Councillor Ruben Konnik, who sits on the Lacombe Police Commission, said the deficit was also a surprise to them.
“There was no indications in the tracking that we were going to be out this much. We were $400,000 under budget as of December 3rd last year. All of sudden there was such a large shift,” he said.
The Police Commission and City administration are currently working to provide a full answer to why the deficit happened but administration did provide a preliminary explanation.
“We have looked into what the cause of the deficit was and it was a combination of a number of small factors that built up to it including: A new collective bargaining agreement that was brought in last year; a clerical error in entering the Budget in a spot that was not caught; and then there were some changes at the Provincial level on how bail hearings are ran, which drive the need for more guard time,” Goudy said.
Goudy also suggested there has a shift towards officers choosing to be paid out for stat days rather banking the hours.
“If all of them get paid out for the almost two full weeks, that is an extra full-time officer worth of full-time employees,” Goudy explained “It is hard to imagine such a small issue turning into a large deficit, but right there — that is $150,000 deficit.”
Currently, the deficit is still running in 2019 meaning another deficit will show on next year’s numbers, however the Police Commission has already held off hiring a planned-for officer in order to help mitigate the deficit.
“We are trying to address that going forward,” Konnik said. “We have delayed hiring a police officer that was supposed to be on already. That won’t happen until a later date.
“The deficit that is projected won’t be as high this year as it was last year, but we assessing this as we go.”
Administration is currently working to pinpoint exactly what occurred and how the affect of that will be mitigated or eliminated going forward.
“I think there is a low chance it will be eliminated this year because of the service the Police Service of delivering is what the community wants,” Goudy said. “They want that 24-hour community policing. The reality is that we at a good level of service.
“It is a safe community and that is reflected every year in our stats. That is something we want to defend.”
The removal of $142,963 from the Police Reserve still leaves $50,000 remaining in the fund for the Police to fund vehicle replacements and other unexpected expenditures.
Council will look to the commission to mitigate this without impacting the service level. The Commission did say they are always looking for potential revenue sources.
“There are issues with traffic around two key areas of the city: 2A and 12 and also 2A and Woodland,” Konnik said. “It has been suggested that one of the ways to solve the problem of people running red lights is maybe red light cameras. That would be an additional revenue source but that is all very preliminary.
“The Police Commission has not decided whether that is a route we want to go.”
The reserve fund was put into place for unexpected expenditures each year.
“Leaving the $50,000 in does provide that level of security that the police are looking for,” Goudy said. “Historically, the Commission has not had an operating reserve balance. They were pleased to have significant operating balance and I’m sure it is very disappointed for it to be reduced to $50,000 but at least that will provide some funds for unexpected expenditures.”
Konnik believes the $50,000 will be enough to cover potential expenditures.
“We have identified the problems and it is not so much the Police Commission or admin made errors — there were oversights with all parties and going forward we have recognized those oversights and will make the necessary changes to ensure this wont happen going forward,” he said.