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Police Budget Nets at 3.7% Increase

Police service in Woodstock will cost the average taxpayer $505 in 2013. Police Chief Rod Freeman tabled the Police Services Board budget Thursday night at a net increase of 3.7%. Chief Freeman says factoring in an increase in revenues, the budget actually equates to less than the 4.5% reported earlier this week. The 3.7% equates to an extra $3.31 for the average taxpayer, or 27-cents per month. Freeman says it's a budget that takes taxpayers, and their safety into consideration. "We fully respect that we're funded through taxpayers dollars, and this budget was developed on the basis of using as few taxpayer dollars as responsibly possible while fulfilling our mandate to protect our community, and protect our citizens." But there are cost pressure on the police budget in the area of salaries and benefits. Police contracts are settled through provincial arbitration, and Chief Freeman pointed out another area where the rising cost of service is out of their hands. "Court security will see a 13% increase and that will cover overtime hours of having the courts open. We are at the mercy of the courts and how long they want to stay open and that's a call made by the judge, depending on where they are in cases. But we have that obligation to provide security whenever that courthouse is open, yet we don't have any control as to when it closes. The Police Board is also increasing the contribution to the sick leave and severance reserve fund, which is running at a $1-million deficit. Chief Freeman says they're slowly starting to tackle that issue by increasing this year's contribution to $110,000, from $15,000 last year. A $50,000 request for an efficiency study was not tabled Thursday night. Councillor Sandra Talbot, who now Chairs the police board says she'll table it at a later date.

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