11/12/2015 16:39 EST | Updated 11/12/2016 00:12 EST

Toronto police budget increases to $1B

Toronto's police force has landed a $27-million budget hike, with the Police Services Board voting unanimously on Thursday to approve Chief Mark Saunders' request for an increase of 2.76 per cent for 2016.

That pushes next year's police budget above the $1-billion mark.

Last year, the budget for the Toronto Police Service was $979 million. Most of the operating budget goes towards salaries and benefits

In October, Toronto police presented an operating budget request of $1.015 billion, and the board asked Saunders to find more savings. He came back Thursday with a $1.006 billion-budget.

Toronto Mayor John Tory agreed to pass the budget, but said the force must continue to look for savings.

"We can't afford to keep the cost going up," he told reporters after the meeting. "We have to make some changes."

Speaking to reporters last week, Saunders, who replaced Bill Blair as chief of police earlier this year, said Toronto Police Services will look at cutting costs in the future by "leveraging technology" and offloading some of its workload.

"There is no silver bullet to this whole thing," he told reporters Thursday. "Crime is different right now. We've got cyber issues, we've got national security issues, and we've got our day-to-day issues. Now we need to get other agencies involved to take ownership of some of the responsibilities."

The police service has asked the city for repeated budget hikes over the past several years, while the police services board has been pushing for lower costs and a different way of doing things when it comes to policing in Toronto.

Since 2006, the Toronto Police Services budget has increased by $254 million. Of that, 92 per cent is from collective agreement increases.

'Radical changes'

Next month, the police services board will release a KPMG report on ways to dramatically reduce costs. It includes the idea of closing all 17 police division buildings and replacing them with storefront operations.

It also is said to recommend decreasing the size of platoons and shifting jobs currently carried out by police officers to civilian positions. 

Saunders says he is looking to transform the present model of policing but says he won't compromise on safety.

Speaking on Metro Morning this week, police services board member Shelley Carroll recognized the recommendations are challenging.

"There is no question that these are radical changes but we know they can be done."