Butler Twp. commission proposes levy to fund police department

The Butler Township Budget Commission is recommending township trustees place an additional 3.5 mill levy on the November ballot to fund the police department.

The levy would generate about $750,000 annually.

Trustees are expected to vote to place the issue on the ballot at the board’s meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, July 25.

The commission estimates the levy funds would allow the township to support their own department, without having to make any cuts.

Commission chairman Gregory Bush said that the additional 3.5 mill levy is the estimated minimum needed to fund the department, although township taxpayers would likely not be willing to pay any more than that. The proposal would cost property owners $122.50 for each $100,000 of property value, according to the commission.

The township has a 4.9 mill continuing levy for the police department. That levy generates about $1 million annually and costs property owners about $150.00 per $100,000 of property value.

“We know our residents want to keep our police department,” Sherry Edwards, budget commission vice chairwoman, said. “But to keep our police department, we’re going to have to belly up and raise the money.”

Township trustees voted May 9 to disband its police force and use the Montgomery Co. Sheriff’s Department for services.

The trustees voted to rescind their plans on June 27, however, after the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office said that money raised from a 2006 levy could only be used to fund the local police department, and not the sheriff’s department.

Despite the folding of the trustees’ plans, unrest still exists between township residents and the trustees, as residents want to make sure that the township is policed by their own force and not the sheriff’s department.

While the budget commission said every penny of the $3.5 million levy will go towards funding the township’s police department, residents like Leo Holihan expressed their need for assurance if they are to vote for the levy.

“The people need to know the ramifications of voting for the levy,” Holihan, one of six township residents who attended Tuesday night’s meeting, said. “We need to make sure that the people clearly understand the facts.”

Resident John Ellis also expressed concern about how money from the levy would be used.

“Unless the language is just absolutely iron-clad, that this doesn’t go to the sheriff’s department, this won’t pass,” Ellis said. “And I will be going door-to-door on every corner, making sure it doesn’t pass.”

Now is the time to raise funding if the township hopes to support a local police department in the future, Bush said.

“We have a serious, serious problem. If we don’t address it quickly, the cliff gets taller and taller,” Bush said. “And I worry about the security of our officers.”

The budget commission and township fiscal officer Mark Adams hope the levy proposal will give residents a chance to decide the fate of their local police department.

“We’re leaving it up to the voters,” Adams said.

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