Hamilton City Councillors did the right thing last month when they voted to end the $50,000 special levy Hess Street bar owners were paying for special policing costs during patio season. But they were asleep at the switch when they voted to instead provide the funding out of a city reserve fund. The police don’t need or deserve the money. All councillors had to do was take a cursory look at the funding plan presented earlier this year for the Police Forensic building and they would see in the police accountants’ own report evidence that the Police service has been squirreling away all kinds of cash under council’s noses. In 2014 and 2015 the Police posted operating surpluses totalling $4.5 Million on budgets that were described as “bare bones” when presented to council. Then there was the $1.5 Million the police scored by submitting a questionable bill to the province for Pan Am policing. They also have reserve accounts totalling $24 Million that seemingly never get tapped. City finance retiree Shekar Chandrashekar has been a thorn in the side of council and the Hamilton Police Services Board in trying to point out these financial hijinks but he has been treated with condescension by staff and indifference by councillors for whom this type of financial 101 analysis is apparently beyond their limited capabilities. Given past shenanigans around police budgeting the police shouldn’t get an extra cent from this council until the entire process gets a much higher level of scrutiny, perhaps by the City’s internal auditor or the provincial Ombudsman. Greater financial literacy on council coupled with the courage to act on it would also be helpful.
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