Township seeks levy, JEDD to avoid police cuts

If the levy - which failed by 105 votes out of 2,341 cast in March - fails again, it could force the police department to be cut in half - from 12 to six - by 2014. The department laid off two officers last year and another retired. Still another resigned to take another job last week, reducing the force to 11.

Passage of the levy would add about $339,000 to the police budget, said township administrator Kimberly Lapensee, allowing the rehiring of two officers.

How much a Joint Economic Development District agreement would add is speculation. Estimates are in excess of $250,000. Employees would pay that through a 2 percent tax, which would replace the income tax from cities where they live.

A person who lives in Vandalia and pays 2 percent on income, would pay that to Butler Township instead of Vandalia, which would administer the JEDD and recoup some lost revenue with a 15 percent fee paid by the township.

While all the businesses have been asked to join the JEDD, all would have to join to make it worthwhile for the township. If businesses employing 51 percent of the workers join, the township can declare the rest of the strip under the JEDD as well.

Key, of course, are sister stores Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club, the two biggest employers in the area, who appeared to sign on last year, except a confirming e-mail was sent to the township by a payroll tax analyst instead of the company president. The JEDD is necessary on Miller Lane, Lapensee said, because that area attracts the largest concentration of people, not all of them from Butler Township.

“We want people to feel safe there,” Lapensee said, “but we don’t want to use all our police just on Miller Lane and forget about the rest of the township. We need both the levy and the JEDD, which would take us to about 2019.”

More than half the township police calls come from Miller Lane, with Wal-Mart and Sam;s the biggest users. Butler police used to answer every call to Wal-Mart, but now any shoplifting under $50 must be handled by Wal-Mart officials.

So far this year, more than 1,800 police calls have been made from Miller Lane, more than 300 by Wal-Mart and in excess of 60 by Sam’s.

“I think they will be part of the JEDD,” said Jeff Bothwell, Butler Township’s director of development. “I’m getting good vibes. But everything at Wal-Mart happens at a deliberate pace.”

Wal-Mart is still considering the proposal.

“Wal-Mart is taking a serious look at this,” a spokesperson said, “however, at this time, no decision has been made.”

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