2018-05-10 / Front Page

Voters to face police millage on Nov. ballot

810-452-2652 • lrocha@mihomepaper.com

GAINES TOWNSHIP – Voters here will have until November to make up their minds about a proposed levy to fund police services.

The township Board of Trustees has yet to decide whether they will ask for an equal, flat-rate assessment on all improved properties, or a millage.

Getting the question on the August primary ballot would have been an “overly ambitious” endeavor, said township attorney Michael Gildner.

“There are procedures and hearings (that are required),” Gildner said. “I would be leery about trying to squeeze it in under the deadline.”

To include the proposal on the August ballot, the board would have to submit ballot language to the county clerk by May 15.

Dozens of area residents attended two informational forums in April, during which township officials laid out several options and answered questions.

Public reaction was mixed, with many residents applauding after people spoke in favor of increased taxpayer funding for police, and about as many applauding after people spoke in opposition.

In 2014, voters approved a 0.5-mil levy to fund the police department. Since then, Headlee rollbacks have reduced the rate to about 0.49 mils, township officials have said. The levy, which expires at the end of the year, will generate about $84,000 in fiscal year 2018-19. The rest of the $186,000 budget is paid from the general fund.

The township currently has a full-time chief, plus two patrol officers, a detective and a secretary, all of whom work parttime. The local department provides about 560 man-hours of service per month, according to information provided by the township. That calculates to at least one officer on duty 25 days per month.

Township officials have said they would like the police department to be 100 percent taxpayer funded to free up general fund money for other services such as road repair and improvement. They’ve also floated the idea of a new township hall.

The township now has until Aug. 16 to file ballot language for the November general election. That means the board has three more regular meetings to decide whether they will ask for a millage or assessment, and how much they will request.

A full-time police department with round-the-clock coverage would cost about $327,000, requiring at least 2 mils if it is fully taxpayer-funded, township officials have said.

Records indicate that the average taxable value, roughly half the true cash value, in Gaines Township is $60,833. That means the owner of a property worth about $121,666 would pay $60.83 annually per mil.

Were the board to opt for a special assessment on the estimated 2,626 homes and businesses in the township, each parcel likely would pay about $124 per year for a full-time police department, or about $70 per year to maintain the current level of coverage.

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