Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair said he could be forced to close a police station in 2014 as a result of the tight budget that the Toronto Police Services Board and Toronto’s budget committee recommended this week.
“There is a point in staffing reductions where we will have to make some very difficult decisions,” said Blair. “It may require very difficult decisions, and one of the decisions I will have to consider is whether we can operate 17 police stations.”
Blair made the comments outside the committee room where moments earlier Toronto’s budget committee had approved sending on the 2013 police operating and capital budgets to Mayor Rob Ford’s Executive Committee.
The $927.9 million budget put forward by the board is $21 million less than the budget that Blair proposed.
The board ordered the chief to freeze hiring and promotions, hold back money that is contributed to the city’s vehicle and equipment reserve and cut back on premium pay. It also demanded that Blair find $6.7 million in unallocated savings, making no specific recommendations.
Blair said that because the board’s numbers were off on savings that might be achieved through a hiring freeze, he has to find $8.7 million. Board members had suggested he could find that money from the $8 million surplus generated this year. But Blair said doing so is impossible without city permission, and that banking on a surplus for next year wasn’t predictable.
“There’s no pot of gold hidden under the stairs at police headquarters,” said Blair. “There’s some speculation that there may be a surplus somehow. But what this really is is an unallocated reduction. And an unallocated reduction is without precedent. I have never seen a decision by a body to reduce a budget without knowing where those reductions are coming from.”
Blair pointed out that he has no power to lay off officers — that is a decision for the Toronto Police Services Board, who this year instructed him to hire another 80 officers who’ll begin training next week.
“They’ve approved the hiring of the 80 officers,” said Blair. “I just have to figure out how to pay them.” The budget committee approved the budget — over the objections of vice chair Doug Ford, who agreed with Blair on the issue of balancing budgets using surpluses."
“I’ll support the board and the budget team because I’m a team player,” said Ford. “Do I agree with it? I don’t agree with it. We went way too far on the one side and didn’t compromise a little bit.”