Consultant says Town could save $58 million by 2036 by ditching OPS in favour of OPP

November 15, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Baker

A consultant hired to provide clarity on Orangeville’s long-standing policing conundrum has estimated the Town could save as much as $58 million over the next 16 years if it replaces the Orangeville Police Service (OPS) with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP). 

A comprehensive 102-page report, put together by Jon Hambides of Pomax Consulting, was delivered to the Town last Thursday and presented to Council on Monday (Nov. 4). In that report, Mr. Hambides offers his opinion that the OPP would be able to offer a similar level of service to the Orangeville at a fraction of the cost.

“We conclude that the core functions of community policing would be the same whether service is provided by OPS or OPP,” Mr. Hambides stated in the report. “Compared to either the OPS’ currently approved budget, or its revised budget proposal, the Town of Orangeville will realize substantial savings if it accepts the OPP’s proposal.”

The analysis was stretched out over a period of 16 years so as to cover, and include estimates factoring in anticipated population growth in Orangeville between now and 2036. As per the 2016 Canadian Census, the population of Orangeville was 28,900. The provincial government has mandated that Dufferin County grow its population to 85,000 by 2041 (up from 61,735 in 2016). It’s expected the population of Orangeville will rise to approximately 36,000 as a result of this plan.

While Mr. Hambides indicated the Town would, eventually, benefit in a big way should it transition to the OPP, it would take a number of years for the Town to realize any true savings. Policing costs in 2020 would balloon to $15.6 million if Orangeville Council goes with OPP – although a substantial portion of that, approximately $9.5 million, would come in the form of first-year transitional costs. The remaining $6.1 million would be paid out to OPS for providing a policing service for part of the year. At present, OPS has requested a budget of $8.35 million for 2020. In short, the additional cost to the town in 2020 should it transition to the OPP would be approximately $7.2 million. 

During its presentation to Council earlier this year, OPP stated it would cost approximately $8.1 million per year over the course of a three-year transition contract to provide policing services to Orangeville, with an additional $1.2 million tagged on in the first year for start-up costs. No revenues were included in the OPP’s those figures. 

For a comparison, the 2019 OPS budget pegged total expenses at a shade under $10 million, although revenues were expected to bring that number down to a net total of $8.1 million for the year. Last month, it was reported the OPS would be approximately $270,000 short on projected revenues, although that was labelled inconsequential by Chief Wayne Kalinski, who informed the Citizen OPS was trending to come in under budget in 2019. 

Going back to the first-year transitional costs, Mr. Hambides estimated in a “worst case scenario”, the Town would be on the hook for approximately $4.7 million in severance pay to current OPS employees if it decides to transition to OPP. A further $760,000 would be required to pay for upgrades to the existing police station on C Line.

Delving further into the figures presented in the report, he estimates the Town will essentially break even on its transitional costs by 2024. By that time, Orangeville will have completed its three-year transitional contract, and will be brought onto the OPP’s billing model. Using data and statistics provided by OPS to calculate, roughly, what the calls for service component of the OPP bill will be on an annual basis moving forward year over year, Mr. Hambides believes the Town will recognize savings of $3.9 million in 2024, and $3.95 million in 2025. By 2024 he expects those savings to top out at $4.25 million, with those numbers climbing year over year until, by 2036, the Town is saving $5.8 million. 

If Orangeville accepts the OPP’s contract proposal and transitions to the provincial force, upon completion of the three-year transitional contract, the estimated cost per property for policing services in town would begin at $457.71 in 2024, and climb to $492.88 by 2036. Using the same formula, he estimates the cost per property in Orangeville under OPS would be $742 in 2024, rising up to $899 in 2036. Currently, the average property in Orangeville pays $864 per year for OPS. 

Coun. Todd Taylor voiced his concerns early on in the evening, suggesting to Mr. Hambides that he has a hard time believing such an extensive 16-year cost projection could be anywhere close to accurate.

“What you’ve done with costs, and how you’ve laid it out, I do on a regular basis with my employer, only I do it in a three-year, or five-year plan. The very sad thing, I find, is when I put that (projection) out there, within the first month, I know I’m wrong,” Coun. Taylor said. “I’m surprised here, I didn’t realize we were getting a 16-year plan. I find, as you go further and further out, year over year, you become wildly and wildly more wrong.”

Mr. Hambides noted the 16-year plan was a specific request of Town staff, as referenced earlier, to factor in projected population growth in Orangeville between now and 2036.

“You’re right with what you’re saying. There are all sorts of variables that come into play. Variables that could mean forecasted savings could be less, or they could be more,” Mr. Hambides retorted. “Variables happen, we just have to forecast as best we can.”

In his year-over-year projections, Mr. Hambides noted he increased the OPP budget, on average, by three percent per year, to cover any increase in costs to either the calls for service, or base cost levels, although the actual amount/increase may come in considerably less than 3 percent year over year.

Referencing the $7.2 million the Town would need to come up with in 2020 to essentially cover all the first-year transition costs, Coun. Taylor noted the municipality doesn’t have that sort of money lying around.

“I want the public to know that we don’t have this money. We will borrow this money and amortize it out over a period of time. The interest of that kind of loan, over 16 years, would be approximately $1.9 million,” Coun. Taylor added.

Orangeville CAO Ed Brennan advised that there were “many methods” in which the Town could come up with that money, including borrowing the amount from internal accounts, such as municipal reserves, as paying back over time. Orangeville Mayor Sandy Brown asked Mr. Brennan to bring a report back to Council next week highlighting potential options/scenarios in which the Town could get its hands on that kind of money.

Another key component of Monday’s meeting centred on response times. Getting into the nitty gritty of the staffing levels currently employed by OPS and proposed by OPP, Mr. Hambides notes the provincial force would “have more boots on the ground than OPS currently enjoys” over the course of the three-year transitional contract. 

At present, according to Mr. Hambides’ report, the full OPS complement comes in at 42.9 FTEs – full-time equivalents, which works out to 1,417 hours of service per year, and includes a chief, a deputy chief, two staff sergeants, six sergeants, 31.8 constables and 1.1 overtime equivalent. In the OPP proposal, the provincial force has committed to a total FTE complement of 44.6 over the course of the three-year transitional contract, including one staff sergeant, six sergeants, 35 constables, 1.6 overtime equivalent and 0.58 superintendent (split with a neighbouring detachment). Due to the similarities, Mr. Hambides indicated there “wouldn’t be much difference” in response times between OPS and OPP. 

Following Mr. Hambides’ presentation, and a wealth of questions from Council, the floor was opened up to the public, who were invited to come forward with any questions or concerns in the hopes that the consultant could provide an answer. In perhaps the most noteworthy of the questions asked, local businessman Trevor Castiglione queried whether or not the OPP would stand behind the numbers presented in Mr. Hambides’ report.

“Well, it depends what you by that, because there is a variable in it. The variable is the base costs might change, it’s changed $3 or $4 in last few years, and so could the costs for call for service change depending on the types of call that occur in Orangeville, or across the province, because province wide affects it,” Mr. Hambides said. “If you’re saying is it absolutely going to be exact? I don’t know, but that’s the ballpark.”

Not satisfied with the answer, Mr. Castiglione pressed the consultant, asking if the OPP would stand behind his report as presented.

“They have to this point, yes,” Mr. Hambides said.

Speaking to the Citizen following the conclusion of Monday’s meeting, Coun. Joe Andrews stated that, while there was lots of interesting information included in Mr. Hambides’ report, he had still yet to make up his mind over where he should cast his vote on the policing issue.

“My mind has not been made up. We’ve only just had a chance to review this document – we still have some more information to review before a final decision can be made,” Coun. Andrews stated. “The projected financial savings helps out, but we don’t know the what ifs. The what ifs are what is going to happen if the Province decides to look at policing much differently than they are in 2019/2020. There are lots of concerns and issues that will be brought into and considered when making a final decision – we need to look at all parts of this.”

Next week, on Nov. 11, Council will receive a report and recommendation from Town staff on the policing issue. Council must make a final decision on the issue by Dec. 9.

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