2014-11-20 / Front Page

Public safety millage under consideration

BY LANIA ROCHA
810-452-2652 • lrocha@mihomepaper.com

CLAYTON TOWNSHIP – Township officials are considering a millage request to help pay for public safety.

The question could go before voters next November.

“I’m very concerned about our police department,” said township Supervisor Chris Gehringer. “We don’t have enough money to operate it.”

Public safety is the township’s greatest expense, taking up about 40 percent of the budget.

The 1 mil currently levied for police services generates about $198,000 of the department’s $599,988 budget.

Additional revenues come from fines, impounds, cost recovery (billed to insurance companies), grants and forfeitures.

The bulk of the funding, however, comes from the general fund. Last year, the township spent $312,998 in general fund monies on police department costs.

“It is extremely important for us to look at avenues to help alleviate the strain (on the general fund),” said Gehringer. “Every penny we take from the general fund … could be used for other things like roads and ditches. At this point, we’re in serious discussion (as to) where we want to go.”

The police department has four fulltime officers, including Chief Scott Pavlik, and eight part-time officers who provide round-the-clock coverage.

Pavlik has supplemented revenues by obtaining grants, and chipped away at expenses by acquiring free military surplus equipment.

“The simple matter of fact is that we’re running as lean as possible on a shoestring,” said Gehringer.

At the same time, Pavlik and his staff have been trying to shift the department’s focus.

“We’ve been trying to protect and serve more than punish,” said Gehringer. “It used to be tickets, tickets, tickets. We’ve found other avenues that had less impact on the residents.”

As a result, revenues from fines were about $53,413 this year, down from $139,000 in 2007.

“We’ve been very community-oriented,” said Gehringer.

Part of that shift in focus has involved tackling a problem of home invasions that continues to plague rural communities.

“We’ve had more than 40 break-ins over the last year,” he said. “We need to beef up our detective services. We’ve been able to solve a great number. but those investigations cost great amounts of money.”

Gehringer said he’d like to add a fulltime detective to the police roster.

“These things cost money,” he said.

Voters have turned down two previous millage requests.

“I don’t want (the millage) to be a strain on our residents,” said Gehringer. “I want to keep it down to what we think we need to run the police department and no more.”

In the end, the decision will be left to the electorate.

“There’s no question that we’d ask the voters to decide,” said Gehringer. “We will not assess anyone without their permission. But we’ve tried everything else.”

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