Chesterfield Township voters will decide Tuesday whether to approve increased funding for police and fire departments.
Their Nov. 6 general election vote will follow months of anticipation in the community regarding the ballot proposals.
Fire tax renewal, increase
Last January, Fire Chief Doug Charbonneau told Patch declining property values resulting in smaller collections on the existing taxes means the department needs more money. A requested tax increase comes at the same time of the existing millage renewal.
A committee—comprising Trustees Brian (Scott) DeMuynck, Michele Ficht and Gerald Alexie, Charbonneau, Union President and firefighter Gordon Tuzinsky and Union Vice President Fire Lt. Brian Hubbert—formed in spring to review the department's financial needs.
The fire department will ask voters to renew the existing mills, along with a .75 mill increase. The additional .75 mills will be added to the previously collected 2 mills for operations. The previously collected .5 mills for equipment will be also be on the ballot for renewal. If approved, the tax collection would be in effect for 20 years. Fire officials held special meetings in fall to answer questions about the tax request.
Fire and township officials say the ballot must pass to sustain the department that's already operating at low staffing levels.
Police millage request
Chesterfield Township police and board members say more tax revenue is crucial for the department.
A financial audit last summer showed the police fund is expected to be completely depleted in four to five years.
During the 2011 financial audit by Plante and Moran, auditors told the township that the overall community received an "unqualified audit opinion"—essentially the gold star rating—for sound financial management. But, the police department suffered an $870,000 operating loss because of an 18 percent decline in property values.
"This is a long-term problem," township Finance Director Victoria Bauer previously said.
During town hall meetings last month, police officials told the public that major layoffs were expected if the millage didn't pass. "Up to 40 percent of the department's patrol staff may be laid off in 2014 if funding is not approved. The patrol staff may be reduced from 43 to 26 officers. This reduction will result in increased emergency response times and elimination of some not in-progress/non-crime related services," according to the presentation.
The police department already collects 5 mills that do not require renewal. Voters will be asked to approve another 2.5 mills that would be also be collected annually in perpetuity. The proposed increase will mean an average home owner will pay $200 a year, according to the department.
Resident reaction is mixed
Chesterfield Township voters have been torn over the millage proposals. In comments on Patch and on our Facebook page, some say they favor the tax hikes to sustain police and fire services in the community of more than 43,000 residents. While others criticize the collection amount, or the 20-year millage for fire and endless collection on the police tax.
"I question why 20 long years," longtime resident Joe Miller, who is running for township supervisor, told the board in August.
Supervisor Michael Lovelock, who is running for re-election, dismissed talks of disbanding the police force for the Macomb County Sheriff's Office.
"I feel strongly in my police and fire departments and I will do everything in my power to keep the police and fire departments in Chesterfield."
In part of a Facebook post, voter Rick Kotecki wrote, "During hard times everyone is asked to do more with less, when will this apply to our local government?"
Meanwhile, many homeowners in the community posted yard signs for the millages. And, some residents attended township meetings to vocalize their support.
"I think our police department is one of the finest in the state," said Rene Nelson said in summer. "I would take everything I have to pay a higher tax to keep our police department. I'm sure that 90 percent of Chesterfield residents would."
Read the exact ballot language for the police and fire proposals in our November Election Guide.
What do you think about the ballot proposals? Tell us in the comments' section below.
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