Norfolk continues to benefit from new policing formula

By Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer

Norfolk’s Police Services Board continues to be favourably impressed with the province’s new formula for assessing policing costs.

The OPP’s billing branch in Orillia recently informed Norfolk that its policing costs in 2017 will be in the range of $12.2 million.

This is only an estimate. No one knows exactly how much the OPP will cost Norfolk next year. However, the PSB expects next year’s costs to be about 2 per cent higher than this year.

Even that is hard to gauge because there are still more than two months left in 2016. The offer for 2017 can’t even be compared to costs in 2015 because Norfolk won’t get the actual reconciliation for that calendar year until sometime in November.

Still, the PSB likes the numbers its seen since the OPP adopted the new billing format last year.

On Wednesday, Peter Hellyer of Simcoe, chair of Norfolk’s Police Services Board, said policing this year will cost the county a maximum of $12.2 million. This compares with $13.1 million in 2012 before the costing formula was modified.

“We’re not paying anything remotely like that anymore,” Hellyer said. “It’s been a major reduction, which has been to our credit.”

Hellyer did some simple math to illustrate the benefits of the new formula. He noted that Norfolk has at its disposal 105 officers who cost about $160,000 a year each all-in.

Were Norfolk paying the full cost of this force, the annual bill would be in the range of $16.8 million. Norfolk’s bill is nowhere near this high because some of these officers oversee policing in areas related to provincial jurisdiction. An example is patrolling provincial highways within Norfolk.

“So far it’s been very much in our favour,” Hellyer said. “It’s quite a good deal.”

Not long ago, OPP accountants calculated the cost of municipal contracts on a per-officer basis. This changed when rural municipalities complained that escalating policing charges were pushing them to the brink of insolvency.

The new formula bills municipalities based on the number of taxable properties in their jurisdiction and the estimated number of calls for service based on the experience of previous years.

Norfolk is among several dozen municipalities that have seen its policing costs drop dramatically.

According to the OPP’s latest costs estimates, it costs the force nearly $366 million a year to deliver policing services to all its municipal customers. This works out to about $192 for every taxable property in OPP-patrolled jurisdictions.

With 29,500 households and 1,740 commercial and industrial properties, the average cost per taxable property in Norfolk will be $384 in 2017.

Norfolk has done well under the new formula, but Hellyer says other jurisdictions are not as pleased.

He noted that rural municipalities with a high-end cottage presence – Muskoka for example – have seen a significant rise in costs since the province changed the formula for calculating policing charges.