Regional councillors have approved a $135-million police budget for 2013.

That’s a 7.3 per cent increase over what the Waterloo Region Police Service received in 2012, and some say the police budget is quickly becoming unsustainable.

“We just cannot continue to have the levels of increase that we have,” said Kitchener Mayor Carl Zehr.

The 7.3 per cent increase represents about $9.2 million, or an extra $30 on the average property tax bill.

Despite the budget increase, police say there will be eight fewer officers on the force as eight retiring officers won’t be replaced.

North Dumfries Mayor Rob Deutschmann said he’d like to see the police budget even higher, suggesting a $500,000 increase for more front-line officers.

“We want to ensure that if somebody does have to make that phone call for police services, that they’re available,” he said.

Regional chair Ken Seiling was surprised at Deutschmann’s suggestion, saying it was the first time in his 34 years on regional council that he’d heard a councillor call for police to get more funding.

“The argument has always been ‘Could you not lower it?’” he said.

Cambridge Mayor Doug Craig says it’s not the region to blame for the continued climb in police salaries, but instead a flawed arbitration process.

Police arbitration is run by the province, and Craig said the effect of that and other decisions on municipalities needs to be made clear to local MPPs.

$3 million of the budget increase is attributed to local police having to pick up the tab for security services at the new courthouse in downtown Kitchener.