Clayton Twp. board to begin talks on upcoming police millage

CLAYTON TWP. — In the coming months leading up to the November general election, the Clayton Township Board of Trustees will have some important decisions to make regarding long-term funding for the police department.

Two police millages, one for 1.8664 mils and the other for 0.9574 mils, expire this year.

The taxes currently generate about $608,318 for the police budget which has grown from $573,136 in 2015, the year voters last approved a police millage, to $742,745 in 2020.

The department receives about $130,000 in additional revenues from sources such as forfeitures, cost recovery, impounds, grants, and fines.

“They are smaller amounts, but they add up,” said township Treasurer Rick Caruso.

The issues before the township board are how many mils should they request, and for how long.

“If we go for the same millage, it will be pretty hard to put this contract out 10 years,” said Clerk Dennis Milem. “You won’t be able to fund a police department (on a millage) that’s already been enacted since 2015. So, do we leave it where it is and go for three or five (years), or do we ask for more and take it to 10?”

An increase to 3 total mils would bring in about $50,000 more per year, “which doesn’t do anything for you,” Milem said.

Taking it up to 4 mils and extending it to 10 years could accommodate increases in the cost of running the department, he said.

“I know it’s very hard to jump a milage from 2.8 to 4, but if we don’t, in 10 years, you’re not going to finance it,” Milem said.

A little higher millage rate would generate more revenues than needed at first, which township officials would set aside to make up the difference on the back end, when revenues are likely to come up short, Caruso said.

“It would carry us through the last two or three years,” he said.

In addition to funding the police department, the board also has to consider that the fire millage expires in 2022, and whether they want to go back to the voters next year, or put the fire renewal on this year’s ballot with the police millage.

As it stands, if voters do not approve a millage in November, the township will not be able to collect taxes for police protection on the winter tax bills in December.

Fortunately, the board has set aside a contingency fund.

“If the millage doesn’t pass, we can’t just close the door the next day,” Caruso said. “So, the contingency fund would get us to the next millage election, or to a place where we can downsize the police department according to the funds we have available.”

With all of the challenges that cropped up around the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, families and business owners are keeping a very close watch on their budgets.

Township Supervisor Tom Spillane said he doesn’t think that will alter the way residents vote on the millage request.

“A lot can happen between now and November,” he said. “It has to get better. These types of millages are just part of operating a community. If we’re doing our job, staying within our budget, and they’re doing their job, I think it will work out.”