Miami Twp. levy would fund new police officers: ‘We need more people’

Voters in Miami Twp. will face a tax increase in May to fund its police department, whose chief says the additional money is needed for more officers.

Township trustees were split 2-1 Tuesday night in asking voters to approve more tax dollars. The dissenter said he “is in absolute support” of the police department and didn’t want to put its funding “at risk” by asking for a funding increase.

More officers are needed as police are responding to more calls and the department is being “reactive” instead of proactive in operating with the same number of officers it had in the 1980s, said Police Chief Ron Hess, the township’s interim administrator.

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“The purpose of the levy (increase) is to hire police officers. Not to buy cruisers,” Hess said. “Not to use that money for training … to hire police officers and to get them on the street to help alleviate the lack of officers that we have here in the township.”

This levy request will come five months after 67 percent of Miami Twp. voters said yes to a 5.25-mill, five-year police renewal levy. In May, they can expect to see a 5.5-mill, five-year replacement levy. A 5-mill, five-year issue is expiring at the end of the year.

If approved by voters, the replacement levy in May would cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 about $40 more a year than the current one at $153, according to the township.

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It would generate about $3.35 million a year, $447,558 a year more than the 5-mill issue, township records show.

The additional money would help fund up to three officers. They would help patrol the township’s 20 square miles, where police responded to 30,066 calls for service in last year, 1,482 more than the year prior, records show.

The township has fewer than 25 officers to patrol an area with a 30,000 daytime population that expands to 50,000 at night with the dining, entertainment and lodging corridors of Austin Landing and the Dayton Mall, police said.

In the Christmas season, Hess said, the number of people in the township can reach 100,000 a day. Not adding officers, said Capt. Charlie Stiegelmeyer, could put the department “on thin ice.”

Hess said he has focused cost-saving measures and using non-levy funds to help increase patrols. This week the police department announced it is disbanding its K-9 unit, saying it is “not a cost-effective tool.”

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The program costs more than $60,000, money that could help fund more officers, he said.

Last year, more than $500,000 in security upgrades and renovation in the police department was funded with money collected in the Tax Increment Financing district around the Dayton Mall, according to the township.

Meanwhile, seized federal and state funds are used for capital expenditures, township officials said.

“We need more people. We’re doing a great job with the amount of that we have,” Hess said. “We can do an even better job if we have some more people.”

Trustee John Morris said, “Without question we are doing more with less” in the police department, which is “doing a tremendous service to our community.”

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But, he questions whether “an increase is the right thing to do at this time.

“I’ve got an impressive number of people reaching out to me saying ‘we love what you’re doing. Continue to do more with less.’ I don’t want to put our department at risk….I’m simply unsure whether an increase would pass,” he added.

Board of Trustees President Doug Barry said he is wants to see what voters will support this spring.

“I think the reason that we’re putting this on in May is that we will get the full temperature of the electorate,” Barry said. “And if it does not pass in May, then I would be in full support of coming back with a 5-mill” levy in November.

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