Growing tax base will soften impact of increasing OPP contract cost

Taxpayers looking at $17.21-million bill for provincial policing contract in 2024

WELLINGTON COUNTY – Wellington County taxpayers are looking at a $17.21-million bill for a contract with the Ontario Provincial Police next year, or a cost of $413 per property owner, once a credit is factored in.

The fee is based on a convoluted equation considering the cost of providing service to 41,686 properties in the county, the county’s three per cent share of overall provincial call volume, overtime, additional officers, transporting prisoners, and finally a year-end credit.

County treasurer Ken DeHart presented the 2024 cost estimate to Wellington County’s Police Services Board (PSB) last month.

The estimated OPP contract breakdown, provided to the board each fall, provides a forecast for what taxpayers will be on the hook for in the new year when it comes to policing services.

Though next year’s bill would be paid in full to the tune of $1.43 million each month, it’s effectively an estimate of what policing costs will really be.

At the end of each year, the true cost of policing the county is reconciled against what taxpayers were billed for, resulting in a credit issued two years later.

In 2022, the policing contract was billed at $17.6 million, but services ended up costing $16.95 million.

The resulting credit of $679,519 goes toward the 2024 policing contract, and softens the impact of expanding budgets.

The true cost of policing the county increased to $16.95 million in 2022, the most recently reconciled year, from $16.17 million in 2020 — an increase of nearly five per cent.

The increased cost per taxpayer during the same time period rose to $417.12 from $403.36.

Despite annual budget increases, the cost per taxpayer is predicted to fall by $4.12 from 2023-24 because of population and property growth.

So long as increasing contract costs don’t outpace the rate of growth, the overall cost is being spread among a greater tax base.

Since 2020, the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation, whose data the OPP relies on, has added 1,596 county properties to the tax base.

The final cost of policing in 2024 will become more apparent once the county factors in other expenses, such as supplies, debt, revenue from user fees and capital expenses; all of which are in addition to the OPP contract.

According to an early 10-year budget outlook, the burden on taxpayers could come out to $18.19 million in 2024, representing an increase of just over one per cent from this year’s budget.

The final county budget, including the cost of policing, will be voted on by council in the new year.

According to the 10-year outlook, the county’s police budget is predicted to rise above $24 million in 2033.