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Levy would help offset cuts



Published: Sun, February 5, 2012 @ 12:01 a.m.

By Elise Franco

efranco@vindy.com

Austintown

The township police chief wants to continue running his department at its current high standard.

Chief Robert Gavalier said with staff at its lowest point since the late 1980s, approving a levy for the police department might be the only way to make that happen.

The 2-mill levy, which would raise approximately $1.17 million annually for five years, is a replacement for the 1.6-mill police levy originally approved by voters in 1976.

Trustee Jim Davis said the current levy is collecting only about $357,000 annually, or 38 percent of its original valuation.

The additional 0.4 mills would generate about $794,000 annually and bring the levy back up to today’s valuation standards.

If approved, the new levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $10 to $12 per year. Those homeowners pay about $50 per year on the current levy, which would make the new tax total about $60 per year.

The police department also received $600,000 in 2011 from the township’s general fund. Gavalier said that amount will be significantly less in 2012 because of budget cuts from the state.

“This levy will mainly help us offset those funding cuts and keep us where we’re at now,” he said.

Gavalier said the department now has 36 full-time officers, nine fewer than at its peak in 2001.

He said the funding also would help to maintain current staffing levels by allowing him to fill positions when several officers retire over the next few years.

“We know we’ll never see that full staffing level again,” Gavalier said. “Right now, we’re asking the township to pass this levy to maintain the level of services they’ve come to expect.”

He said if the levy fails, those positions vacated due to retirement will remain open, bringing officer staffing levels even lower.

Gavalier said fewer officers likely would impact response time and time spent on certain types of cases.

“We’ve found if we take care of the small things such as curfew and liquor violations, the bigger things tend to take care of themselves,” he said. “If we stop handling the small crimes, we’ll start to lose hold of the situation.

“If we lose that grip we may never get it back.”

Davis said residents understand how important safety services are to the township, and he hopes they will vote in favor of the levy.

“People have seen the efforts and services provided by the police department,” he said. “Residents believe in what they do and won’t turn their backs on those [officers.]”

Gavalier said the department will continue to do its due diligence to the community regardless of the election’s outcome.


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