File photo: Ottawa police were investigating after shots were fired on Aspen Village Circle, Saturday March 16, 2019.
Ashley Fraser / Postmedia
Ottawa police ended 2018 $6.2 million in the red and are attributing the lion’s share to shortfalls in expected revenue and overspending on overtime.Both were areas that the force, as recently as February, predicted would make up for a budget shortfall in 2019. The board’s finance committee axed that plan and the service quickly scrapped tying any increased savings to those items in 2019.Lower than expected revenues from background checks, continued shortfalls from collision reporting centres and alarm revenue meant $3.7 million less in police coffers in 2018, according to a financial status report set to be received by the police board Monday.There was $2.7 million less in expected background check revenue alone and $2.1 million spent over and above the overtime budget, which was mainly driven “by staffing shortages in the communications centre and front desk sections.” Tornado efforts in September added about $326,000 to the ballooned overtime budget.Other budget pressures included “higher fuel costs, compensation costs related to workplace safety and insurance board (WSIB), facility operating and maintenance costs, costs arising from project work to improve background check walk-in client service and vehicle maintenance costs.”The board also approved the hiring of 10 additional police officers who were hired in October of last year “to combat gun violence,” but expected federal funding, which didn’t come to the force until this year, created another $600,000 crunch.The force found $3.1 million in savings to offset some of the additional costs — $1.1. million from a discretionary spending freeze that was ordered by the chief in July 2018 and savings in compensation and legal fees. The service also found $400,000 in savings in a “cannabis planning team.” Police had budgeted half a million dollars to plan for the change in cannabis legislation and any impact on the service. Staff were assigned to the project rather than contracting it out elsewhere, which led to the savings.The service also found $100,000 in savings from the diversity audit — the contract was only awarded this year and not last — and another $100,000 in savings after civilianizing the front desk, which, according to the report, will also hopefully lower the staffing shortages firstname.lastname@example.org/shaaminiwhy