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Last week the Ontario Provincial Police unveiled their long-awaited new billing model, and the Municipality of Meaford has offered their thoughts on the revised billing plan, and they appear to be less than impressed.

Meaford's CAO, Denyse Morrissey, and Treasurer Darcy Chapman issued a notice to media outlining their initial assessment of the new billing model.

We have estimated the impact to the Municipality of Meaford effective 2015 given the OPP New Billing Model as announced on August 14, 2014. The current OPP 5.1 costing estimate for the Municipality of Meaford in 2014 was $1,979,731 with an estimated Provincial Services Usage Credit (PSU) of $158,379 for a net contract price of $1,821,352,” said the municipality, “Our February 2014 staff report estimated costs at between $2,134,080 and $2,340,880 based on a cost per household (5600 households) plus a call for service charge. As was mentioned in the OPP and AMO correspondence from August 14, 2014 the costing is now expected to be between $200 and $400 per property, a significant change in stance from the household costing driver. The base cost is now estimated at $208/property plus the calls for service component.”

The model includes two components: base policing costs such as crime prevention, proactive policing, officer training and administrative duties, and cost for reactive calls for service. Base policing will account for approximately 60 per cent of the bill, reactive calls will account for approximately 40 per cent.

With approximately 6,600 properties in the municipality, Morrissey and Chapman are estimating that the new billing model will mean an increase of more than $455,000 per year when compared to what Meaford has been paying for policing services.

Meaford's top staff also expressed concern about how the number of properties within a municipality will be calculated under the new OPP billing model.

Base service costs will be calculated on a per property basis for households, including seasonal and business properties including commercial and industrial properties. Staff are certainly concerned on how they plan to implement this.  We have come to the conclusion that they would have to use MPAC property tax codes to do this.  There is great concern with this given our experience that MPAC property codes can easily be as much as five years behind.  As well, is a property considered one which is habitated or does it include  “vacant” farm fields, industrial lots etc. which would still require a police presence if there was vandalism, squatters, or a fire that took place from equipment storage,” offered Morrissey and Chapman.

A five-year phase in period was announced along with the new billing model, and according to the CAO and Treasurer that will soften the impact of increased policing rates, however over five years it will require an annual property tax increase of 0.75 percent.

The OPP currently provides policing services to 324 Ontario municipalities. The current OPP billing model was introduced in 1998 and has not been updated in 17 years. The revision of the OPP billing model was initiated after the release of the Auditor General's 2012 report in which suggestions were made to improve the billing practices of the police force.

According to the OPP, the average per property cost for OPP services in 2015 is estimated to be $355, compared to an average of $787 (estimated) for self-policed municipalities.

The revised billing model will be one more consideration for Meaford's council as they ponder the future of policing in the municipality.

On March 24, council delayed a decision on who will provide policing services to the municipality in the coming years, after voting 4-3 in favour of hiring a consultant to review the Owen Sound Police Service proposal and compare to options available from the OPP.

It had been anticipated that council would vote on the topic of police services at their March 24 meeting, however that vote was set aside after Councillor Deborah Young asked council to consider the hiring of a consultant.

Young found the support of Councillors Lynda Stephens and James McIntosh, along with Mayor Francis Richardson, while the other members of council appeared to be ready to vote on the issue at the time.

Subsequently Asymmetric Consulting Inc along with Pomax Consulting Inc were hired to review the policing options and report back to staff and council.

That report should be available soon, as Meaford Mayor Francis Richardson recently called two special meetings of council that will focus on the policing issue:

Monday, September 8, 2014 at 1 p.m. – Council Chambers

·        Presentation and Council Questions – Study and Analysis for the Delivery of Community Policing Contract Services (Asymmetric Consulting Inc.)

(Committee of the Whole follows at 3 p.m.)

 Wednesday, September 10, 2014 at 6:30 p.m. – Meaford Hall (Opera House)

·        Public Deputations and Council Deliberation – Study and Analysis for the Delivery of Community Policing Contract Services (Asymmetric Consulting Inc.)