Garrettsville – The village’s request to the police department to cut $100,000 from their 2015 budget remained THE topic of the June village council meeting.  Representing the police department were Safety Communications Supervisor Joleen Clelland and Police Chief Tony Milicia.  In attendance for the village was Mayor Patrick, Council President Hardesty, Council Members Hadzinsky, Anderson, Johnson and Kaiser, Clerk/Treasurer Baldwin and Solicitor Stuck.

At May’s council meeting Clelland brought up the idea of putting a police levy on the upcoming November ballot.  Clelland spoke with the county auditor’s office and reported that there would be no cost to the village to get the levy on the ballot and the wording of the proposed levy would be such that the tax monies would be collected starting February 2016 to affect the 2015 tax year. The request would be for a 3-year, 4.1 mil levy, which would raise about $200,000 annually based on 2013 figures for Fair Market Value (2014 figures are not yet available).  For village property owners that would mean for every $100,000 of value there would be an annual increase of $144 in property taxes.

Clelland went on to say that the levy would allow the department to return to their original budget, maintain current staffing and have available monies for future equipment purchases and repairs.  Councilman Kaiser questioned Clelland on her staffing comment because council had agreed at last month’s meeting not to cut staff and to hire a new full-time officer for an existing vacancy in the department.  Clelland responded that she “probably has a resignation coming in the next couple of weeks.”  Milicia added that he wants to encourage longevity with his current officers because “we are not getting qualified candidates submitting applications.”

Kaiser asked what kind of funding was needed to get qualified candidates, to which Milicia replied, “if we maintain what we have.  If we quit cutting the police department’s budget then people will stay.”  Milicia added that his officers are sensing instability and “feel council does not support the police department anymore.”

Councilwoman Anderson voiced her concerns about a tax increase to the residents.   “Everyone is streamlining; that doesn’t mean we do not support the police department.”  Anderson pointed out that many people have lost jobs, everyone is cutting, and everyone has to learn to live within their means.

Kaiser agreed with Anderson and did not feel it fair to village residents to be in effect “putting out our hands asking for more money.”

In order to get the proposed levy on the November ballot, a unanimous vote was needed for a ‘suspension of rules’, which would then allow a vote on the proposed legislation for the levy.  The two “no” votes by Anderson and Kaiser prevented further voting.

Later in the meeting, the issue was put up to vote to reconsider.  Anderson, though against a tax increase agreed to allow a citizen vote, however Kaiser remained firm with his “no” vote.

In other budget-related business, the floor was opened for comments from residents and employees about proposed cuts to longevity pay, increased health care premiums, and cutting the “eleventh paid holiday” (the day after Christmas).  Several non-police department employees voiced opposition to losing their longevity pay.

Village Clerk Nancy Baldwin reminded council that the General Fund, the BPA and the Streets Department have their own budgets, revenue and expenses; the monies do not intermingle, cuts in the BPA or Streets Department budgets will not help or affect in any way the General fund from which the police department is funded.  After much discussion, council decided to increase health care premiums for all village employees to 12.5% (a 2.5% increase) and cut the eleventh holiday.  Longevity pay remained untouched.   Council also approved the appointment of Officer Joshua Erb to the full-time position council agreed to have filled at the May council meeting.

If you’d like to know more of what is happening in your community attend a meeting.  The next regular Village Council meeting is scheduled for July 9, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. at Village Hall.