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Clinton Township

October 17, 2013

Police and fire millage proposals on the horizon

By Nick Mordowanec
C & G Staff Writer

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — An important vote looms for Clinton Township residents next month.

Police and fire millage proposals are on the table on the Nov. 5 ballot, asking the electorate to decide on additional funding for both departments.

The proposed 1.25-mill fire millage would provide funds for acquiring a new fire vehicle and other operational costs for the department, as well as additional firefighters.

The proposed 1-mill police millage would provide funds for acquiring a new police vehicle and other operational costs for the department, as well as additional police officers.

The proposed fire millage would last a period of nine years, from 2013-2021. The proposed police millage would last a period of seven years, from 2013-2019.

Each millage was voted for by the township’s board of trustees to be put on the ballot for the public to approve.

“The intent in police is to stabilize the current staffing value of total sworn officers, which is at 85 now, and add approximately another eight or nine more sworn police officers to the complement of 85,” said Township Treasurer Bill Sowerby. “For fire, the amount would add to the total amount of fire personnel, which would be another eight.”

Sowerby said that if both proposals pass, the annual cost to the owner of a home valued at $120,000 would be approximately $135 a year — $60 per year on police and $75 per year on fire and rescue. Both proposals are separate, but if both do pass, then township property taxes for homeowners will continue to be an average 6.7 percent less than in 2008.

Police department revenues have declined from about $20 million per year in 2008 to less than $16 million in 2013. The cumulative loss of funds in that span has been $15,173,448. Police officer staffing has been reduced from 110 sworn officers to the current number of 85. The township has also eliminated 15 of 16 dispatch positions by contracting with Macomb County, and clerical staffs have been reduced by five positions, as well.

Nationally, the average number of police officers who serve a community is one officer for every 420 citizens. In Michigan, that number is one officer for every 557 citizens. In Clinton Township, the ratio is one officer per 1,075 citizens.

The fire department has seen a considerable revenue reduction since 2008, from a little more than $15 million in revenues to about $12 million this fiscal year. The township has cut the department’s staff from 99 firefighters to 63 in the last five years, and 19 firefighters were laid off in 2010 and 2011 combined.

The department operates five companies at five fire halls throughout the township. Those numbers are projected to be reduced to three and two, respectively, if the millage fails.

Tax revenues for both departments have declined by approximately 25 percent in the last five years.

“We know that property taxes have dropped since 2008 on most properties because of the way the property tax law works,” he said.

Sowerby noted that property taxes dropped for all citizens by 2012 at the very latest — and if the millage passes, then citizens’ property taxes will still be lower than they were in 2008.

“We will be able to revisit the police millage seven years from now and decide, do we need this money again? Do we need it less or not at all?” Sowerby said. “The same will go for the fire millage. That’s a good thing. That is why we’re asking for the millage — because we need to sustain the revenue rates.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Nick Mordowanec at nmordowanec@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1118.