Tuesday’s passage of the 3.85-mill police levy in Boardman Township offers a lesson for all local governments seeking additional taxes or renewal of existing ones in these challenging economic times: Tell the people the truth, give them the facts, and then let them decide without threats or intimidation.
Approval of the five-year, additional levy in Boardman was vindication for township government officials, led by trustees Larry Moliterno, Brad Calhoun and Thomas Costello, administrator Jason Loree and police Chief Jack Nichols. Nine months ago, Moliterno et al had to come to terms with the defeat of a 3.85-mill levy. They did — and more. The trustees, Loree, Nichols and others went out into the community day after day, giving residents the unvarnished truth about crime in the township, the ability of the current force to effectively deal with it, and plans for the department and the general fund if the levy were approved.
To be sure, not everyone in Boardman was sold on the idea of paying more for government. But rather than shying away from the critics, or simply ignoring them, the proponents engaged them publicly and responded to every criticism and challenge.
The voters obviously appreciated their willingness to defend the additional tax — as evidenced by the outcome of the special election. There were 4,655 votes in favor, compared with 3,612 against. The margin of victory was greater than the margin of defeat in the November general election.
The 3.85 mills, which will cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 about $117 annually, will generate $3.8 million a year, all going to the police department. However, trustees will pull back $2.4 million from the department’s coffers that is funneled from the general fund. Even so, the police department will be able to hire 10 additional police officers, one diversion specialist, one advocate, a crime analyst, a secretary, two records clerks and two dispatchers.
Residents obviously want the police force to have the wherewithal to fight crime in the township. The huge increase in the number of drug houses and the criminals they attract have many residents on edge.
‘Public has spoken’
When the results were announced by the Mahoning County Board of Elections, Costello, who is chairman of the board of trustees, offered this observation: “We’ve said Boardman’s at a crossroads and the public has spoken. ... Now we have to fulfill our promises. We’ve laid out our game plan and now we have the ability to implement it.”
Police presence, especially in high-crime areas, serves as a deterrence. Just ask the residents of the crime-infested neighborhoods in the city of Youngstown.
Every time there’s a crackdown involving the police and state and federal law enforcement agencies, criminals go into hiding or flee the city. The goal is to make it so uncomfortable for the criminals that they choose to go to ground or to operate in some other community.
Criminals know when a police department is short-handed. That could be a reason for the increase in crime in Boardman.
Now, the word will go out that the township will soon have the manpower — and the firepower — to go on the offensive.