MAYORS in both the city and district of North Vancouver say they were shocked to learn last week that local taxpayers will be on the hook for an RCMP pay raise that wasn't discussed with municipalities that pay the bills.
Both City of North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto and District of North Vancouver Mayor Richard Walton say they were surprised and disappointed to be told of the increase after the deal was done - especially since the federal government has promised local leaders more consultation under a new RCMP contract.
"I was shocked when I found this out. It was completely unexpected," said Mussatto. "I was expecting consultation"
Instead, Mussatto said he first learned of the pay raises in the newspaper.
"It's certainly going to put a strain on the relationship between the municipalities and the provincial and federal governments," said Mussatto.
Walton echoed that frustration, saying the pay raise should have been discussed much earlier with municipalities.
"The number 1 rule in business is don't surprise your banker. It's a good rule in life," he said.
The pay increases include 1.7 per cent this year, retroactive to Jan. 1, 1.5 per cent next year and two per cent starting in 2014.
Municipalities have not received a breakdown on how the increases will affect each detachment, but Mussatto said it's estimated the pay hikes are equivalent to a one per cent tax increase.
Both mayors added it's an especially difficult time to get the news because local governments have almost finalized their budgets.
"You try to go into your budgeting process with all of your information on the table," said Walton.
In the two North Vancouver municipalities, RCMP costs are more than $18 million annually. Policing costs are also one of the fastest rising costs in both local governments' budgets.
In North Vancouver, local municipalities pay 90 per cent of policing costs while the federal government pays 10 per cent. Municipalities also pay 100 per cent of costs for civilian support staff.
On top of the recently announced pay hikes, Mussatto said there are additional RCMP costs that municipalities could still be hit with - including costs connected to an unresolved retroactive pay dispute, severance pay and a share of the capital costs for the B.C. RCMP headquarters in Surrey, estimated at $1 billion.
"We still don't understand the full impact of the costs," said Mussatto.
Having more say over cost containment has been a key issue for municipalities in negotiations over the new RCMP contract, signed by provincial Justice Minister Shirley Bond and federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews March 21.
At that announcement, Bond stressed that under the new agreement, municipal leaders would be consulted on decisions affecting costs before rather than after they are made.
The surprise pay raise announcement calls that into question, said Dave Stuart, chief administrative officer for the District of North Vancouver.
Both North Vancouver mayors said their municipalities will not sign the deal by the April 30 deadline.
"It's pretty clear we're not going to be able to meet any kind of end of April timing date," said Walton. "Perhaps not even the end of May."
A team of councillors is examining the contract and coming up with a list of questions that need answering before the District of North Vancouver signs on, said Walton.
Walton said the new 20-year contract is "the most important contract we will sign during this council and probably my tenure as mayor."
"We're going to have a good hard look at it," said Stuart.
Mussatto said similar discussions will happen at the city. "All members of council have been very concerned about the RCMP budgeting and cost increases," he said. "We'll be having some good long talks."