Police board signs off on redirecting pension savings

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The plan to take savings from unilateral changes to the police pension plan and invest them into the Winnipeg Police Service took another step forward Friday.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/12/2019 (1098 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The plan to take savings from unilateral changes to the police pension plan and invest them into the Winnipeg Police Service took another step forward Friday.

The Winnipeg Police Board voted to recommend the city’s budget working group earmark such funds for the WPS.

Board chairman Coun. Kevin Klein (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood) said council’s decision last month to alter the pension plan was a bad idea — but now that the damage is done, he’d like to stave off a potential reduction in local officers.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Winnipeg City Council member and chair of the Police Board, Kevin Klein: "This is now an opportunity to put that money where they said it was going to go.”

“We’re basing it on what we’re hearing from the community. All the input we’ve received from the community — and there’s been two different perspectives — but from the majority we’re hearing they don’t want to see another reduction in police officers,” Klein said.

“Council voted on that money going directly back to the police budget so they can maintain those (staffing) levels… This is now an opportunity to put that money where they said it was going to go.”

In November, city council narrowly approved a set of changes to the police pension plan which will — once fully implemented — result in annual savings of $12 million. Klein was one of the councillors to vote against the move.

The Winnipeg Police Association, the union representing local officers, immediately announced its legal opposition. An arbitration hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 14.

The union argues the pension plan cannot be altered outside of the collective bargaining process. However, civic officials counter certain details are set out in a bylaw, which council is free to change through a democratic vote.

While it remains unclear how long it will take the legal battle to play out, the City of Winnipeg has announced its intention to take the savings from the move and put them towards paying for the police service.

On Friday, Klein said this amounts to Winnipeg effectively gambling with $12 million per year. Should the city lose the battle down the line, it will have to reimburse the affected officers.

“That’s why I did not vote for it… (Proponents) have said that money is going to go directly to the police service. That’s what they said publicly to calm the outcry… It passed, so now you have to direct those funds there.”

The board also recommended the City of Winnipeg’s budget working group — which has been created for the new multi-year budget process — look at other ways of saving money with the WPS.

“We’ve also asked them to reduce expenses by looking at the cost of rent — municipal accommodations, they call it — by looking at the cost of the parking spaces underneath the police headquarters. The potential of saving $500,000 to $800,000 in gas,” Klein said.

“We don’t have the ability to make those changes. All those changes lie with the mayor’s office and (executive policy committee). We’re saying you have to review those expenses now, because it’s painting a misleading picture of the police budget.”

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @rk_thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

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