Terrace taxpayers may be thankful city staffers had the foresight to tuck away money in anticipation of a collective agreement that has now been ratified between RCMP officers below the rank of inspector and the federal government.
Dating back to 2017 and with a last pay raise to come as of April 1, 2022, the agreement means average pay increases of nearly 24 per cent over that period of time.
The city began saving money from 2017 onward in anticipation of the collective agreement and now has $500,000 to help cover retroactive increases coming to officers.
But whether that will be fully enough to cover those retroactive increases and how the city will finance RCMP wages from now on will be occupying city staffers now and into the fall as deliberations begin for the 2022 budget year.
City finance director Lori Greenlaw told council in a June memo that the $500,000 came from anticipating wage increases of 2.5 per cent a year beginning in 2017.
That was the advice of the RCMP but Greenlaw also told council the Union of B.C. Municipalities, in looking at what municipal police forces pay, calculated that the 2.5 per cent might not be enough.
“If increases greater than this are negotiated there will be a significant funding shortfall that will need to be addressed,” Greenlaw wrote.
B.C. municipalities served by the RCMP pay a rate based on population and for Terrace that means city taxpayers pay 70 per cent of RCMP costs, an amount that includes pay and benefits and non-wage related items.
As of April 1, 2016 a beginning RCMP constable would have been earning $53,144 a year, a figure that will now rise to $65,776 as of April 1, 2022 while a senior constable’s April 1, 2016 salary of $86,110 will increase to $106,576 over the same period.
Information distributed by the UBCM indicates that municipal police forces generally offer starting salaries of more than $70,000 a year, a figure that is still higher than what a new RCMP officer will earn as of next April.
Top pay for a sergeant will be $127,204 as of April 1, 2022 while that of a staff sergeant will be $136,657.
Collective bargaining between officers and the federal government became possible in 2015 when the Supreme Court of Canada struck down a law banning officers from unionizing.