Township seeking police, fire millage increase on Nov. ballot

FLINT TWP. — Township voters will be asked to approve a 3.85 mills increase for public safety on the November 4 ballot.

Ballot language unanimously approved by the board of trustees Monday night seeks a ten-year levy from 2014-2024. The first year would generate about $3 million in revenue, according to the approved ballot resolution. That breaks down to about an extra $385 per year in taxes for a property with $100,000 in taxable value, $192.50 per year for $50,00 in taxable value and $96.25 for $25,000 in taxable value, according to property tax projections provided.

What happens if voters reject the increase? Probably staff reductions in the police and fire departments, said Township Supervisor Karyn Miller.

“If it is voted down, then we are going to have to make some major decisions in cutting,” she said.

Due to declining revenues in the past five years or so, the township board has dipped into its fund balance to meet expenses,

“After this year, we will have $2.8 million left in the bank,’’ Miller said.” Generally accepted accounting practices state that you should have at least three months operating expenses in the bank. It is not healthy for our (fund balance) finances to drop below $2.5 million to $3 million. So (dipping) is not going to be an option next year.”

The board will be faced with generating more revenues or making big cuts, she said.

Asked to be more specific about what cut would be made, Miller referenced prior board budget discussions about making ten percent cuts across the board. That would mean losing a couple of firefighters and possibly four or five police officers, she said.

Currently the police department is budgeted for 35 officers but has slightly fewer due to retirements. The fire department has 11 full-time firefighters and 17 on-call firefighters.

Before making big decisions about reducing staff, the board is turning to voters for input.

“We will let residents tell us whether to continue with the same level of public safety service or do we curtail it,” she said.

Payroll, fringe benefits and retirement contributions for public safety employees accounted for 49.4 percent of the township’s 2013 budget, according to its audit report. In comparison, similar expenses for other employees accounted for 12.1 percent of the budget.

The township currently levies .25 mills for fire equipment, .5 mills for police and .5 mills for roads.

The board will form a committee to get some facts and figures out to voters in the form of a newsletter, Miller said.

“We can’t advocate for it (the proposed millage increase) but we can let people know that this is our staffing level and this is what it costs us and this is our need, We will put out information to help people be informed and to make a good decision.”

Some preliminary legwork provides comparable millage levied by nearby municipalities.

Comparably, Swartz Creek levies 4.9 mills for public safety; Grand Blanc Township has 0.25 for fire and 0.912 for police; Mt. Morris Township has 3 mills for fire and 6.5 mills for police; flushing has 3.44 mills for police. Burton voters pay 1 mill for fire and recently approved 8.48 mills for police, according to provided figures.

The millage proposal language still has meet state and county approval before it is added to the November ballot.

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