The Abbotsford Police Department is dipping into its savings to deal with a last minute $500,000 deficit to balance its 2012 budget due to problems identified late by the city's accounting consultants.
The APD police board was actually anticipating a $122,000 surplus before being told at the end of the fiscal year that financial consultants hired by the city had failed to account for costs in two different areas.
Due to a new accounting practice, the APD board had to find $32,000 to cover the costs associated with accumulated employee sick days.
The board was also told the city's former actuary had failed to indicate the APD should be setting money aside to deal with officers' vacation time in their last year of work.
That problem dealt an additional $467,000 blow to the budget.
Throwing the surplus at the problem dropped the deficit to $377,000.
In order to balance the budget, Abbotsford Police Deputy Chief Len Goerke proposed the board pull $177,000 from the APD's capital reserve and the remaining $200,000 from its operating reserve.
That would leave the capital reserve sitting at $983,000.
Goerke said he wanted to maintain the operating reserve at $1.1 million so the department could manage any large unexpected future expenses such as a critical, large scale investigation.
"Ideally we don't want to have to go to the city in that situation," said Goerke.
Police board member Mike McWhinney expressed some concern about withdrawing anything from the capital operating reserve given the need to build savings for large projects, particularly a new police station.
Board member Karen Matty agreed with Goerke's recommendations about how to deal with the deficit.
"We're going to have to deal with something that's not that great," she said, agreeing it was "prudent" to pull some money from the capital reserves.
The board could shape decisions over future capital projects it undertook, but couldn't control whether unexpected operating expenses would arise, she said.
In the end, the board voted unanimously to follow the proposed solution.
Abbotsford mayor Bruce Banman said it wasn't unfair for the APD budget to take the hit for a deficit discovered late in the game by city consultants.
"My view is the [APD budget] is the city's money to begin with," said Banman.
"It would be the same situation with any other city department facing a problem . . . they would have to absorb it just like the police."
Abbotsford Police Chief Bob Rich said absorbing the deficit was normal procedure.
"This is just the normal ebb and flow of handling affairs with the city, and us all complying with changes in accounting practices," he said.
Banman said generally if the police budget can't absorb an unexpected financial blow, the APD would end up turning to the city in any case.