By Jeff Gard/Today’s Northumberland
Following brief discussion at Tuesday’s 2023 operating and capital budget review meeting, Cobourg council unanimously approved the town’s police budget request as present.
The Cobourg Police Service was asking for a 5.1 per cent increase to $6,993,773, up from $6,654,243 in 2022.
During discussion, Councillor Miriam Mutton sought clarification on why the request of $191,995 to cover court security was significantly lower than the $627,702 paid last year.
Mayor Lucas Cleveland, who represents Cobourg on Northumberland County council, said he could speak to it, noting the courthouse is a county building, but because it’s in Cobourg the town’s police force has been on the hook to provide security.
“We are working with the province at the county level to increase funding,” Cleveland said. “At present, the county has, I believe, forked up $275,000 this year which is a bit of a thank-you. It won’t be on your line because it’s from the county to the police for those court costs. I believe the reason we are lowering some of that is the hard work of Chief (Paul) VandeGraaf advocating for more costs to come out from other sources so that it’s not all sitting on the police budget here. The reason those costs are the way they are actually is a bit of a statement from our police chief saying this is what we can afford, this is the service we’re providing as he’s taking a very appropriate approach, in my opinion, to making sure the county is stepping up to cover the court costs that are required.”
Mutton also wondered why IT support was allotted in the 2022 budget, but there is no request in this year’s budget.
“Is it a reasonable general statement to say that the Town of Cobourg and the county are talking about various matters on a regular basis?” she asked.
“I would say a hundred per cent Councillor Mutton that that’s exactly what’s happening and I think you can look no further than the most recent motion at county to re-study the amalgamation of the possible police forces, et cetera, et cetera,” the mayor responded.
Treasurer Ian Davey noted the Cobourg Police previously had a contract with Northumberland County to provide IT service, but last year hired its own IT support person and the previous contract expired.
Councillor Randy Barber was supportive of the police budget after having listened to Chief VandeGraaf make his presentation recently.
“I think my feeling, being a law and order guy and I honestly say that as an individual, I think that we need to have our police service as strong as it possibly can be as it enters into any potential future discussions about amalgamation,” Barber said. “I would like to suggest that what I see here makes an awful lot of sense to me.”
Cleveland said he personally and professionally supports Chief VandeGraaf and what he is accomplishing in the community and also commended him on his recent presentation to council.
“I have asked him many, many follow-ups and looked for ways that we could potentially save and I am 100 per cent confident that this is the best value that we can ask for from our police services. I commend him for his leadership and I thank him for his dedication and I agree with Councillor Barber,” the mayor said.
Councillor Brian Darling said the police budget is one that council traditionally must either accept or refuse in its entirety. He put a motion on the floor that the police budget be accepted as presented and all members of council voted in favour.
The town’s full 2023 budget is set to be finalized Thursday.