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Trustees must make the case for a police levy in Boardman

Published: Sun, January 30, 2011 @ 12:00 a.m.

We know there are at least 16,516 Boardman residents who care about the township’s finances, and yet, despite ample notice, only 40 showed up Monday to witness a vote by the trustees to place a 3.85-mill, five-year police levy on the May primary ballot. Trustees Larry Moliterno, Brad Calhoun and Tom Costello had hoped to generate public interest in the issue by preparing four options for consideration.

But because of the looming deadline for filing a resolution with the board of elections to get the levy on the ballot, they had to have a first reading Monday.

Moliterno, Calhoun and Costello concluded that asking voters to support the police department with $3.7 million in revenue annually would have the best chance of passage. The issue lost by less than 3 percent — 8,473 against, 8,043 for — in the November general election.

But passage in May isn’t assured, as evidenced by the diverse opinions of those who did attend Monday’s meeting.

Proponents contend that public safety must be a priority in the township, given the increase in crime. Last summer, residents of the northern section of the township expressed concern about criminal activity in the Forest Glen and Newport Glen historic areas. Police Chief Jack Nichols issued a list of activities planned by the police and township to address residents’ concerns.

Opponents argue that this is not the time for government to be seeking a tax increase. As Mike McCartney of Tara Court told the trustees: “Everybody’s on a fixed income. If you’re working, you’re on a fixed income. I think we can’t afford these taxes anymore.”

Between now and the May primary, Boardman government officials will have to win over residents who voted against the levy in November and others whose personal finances are even more tenuous now than then.

In order to credibly make the argument that Boardman’s well-being requires sacrifice from all, Moliterno, Calhoun and Costello will have to show what belt-tightening has taken place in government, and what concessions the employees have made or intend to make.

As for the police department, it will be up to Chief Nichols and the rest of the force to make the case that the township is at risk with 45 sworn officers and that the addition of 10 to the force in five years will give residents the level of protection they deserve.

More with less

By any measure, the issue on the May ballot will be a tough sell. It’s not only that residents are stretched thin financially, as are most Americans, but the idea of government doing more with less is gaining a lot of support.

Governments at all levels are under pressure to deal with their fiscal problems without asking taxpayers for more money.

Boardman Township trustees must know that the only hope they have of passing the levy is to take their case to the people, and open their books for public inspection.

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