By Amanda Ensinger
Franklin Township’s police levy has failed for the second time.
On Nov. 2, Franklin Township residents rejected a proposed 7.1 mill police levy with 56 percent of residents voting against the levy and 44 percent voting in favor.
The five-year timed levy would have replaced an existing timed levy that is set to expire at the end of 2022, as well as added an additional 3-mills to the levy.
With the levy failing for the second time and the existing levy set to expire at the end of 2022, township officials said the police department is going to be forced to make some tough decisions.
“We are going to have to make cuts to our service, including eliminating third shift,” said Franklin Township Police Chief Byron Smith. “The sheriff will respond to emergency calls as soon as they can, but they will not proactively patrol the township.”
Smith said that, while they will not have to lay off the 10 full-time and four part-time officers they currently have, the department will not have the budget to pay for overtime.
As a result, Smith said they will have to cut shifts. He also said residents should expect delays when the police department is operating.
“We will only be able to respond to priority calls and residents should expect delays up to two hours,” said Smith.
Last spring, residents rejected a 7.37-mill permanent levy the department asked for with 66 percent voting against the levy and 34 percent voting in favor of the levy.
The department currently also has two other permanent levies it collects from township taxpayers. Those two levies bring in approximately $700,000 a year for the department.
The township recently purchased multiple new police cars, as well as computers for the department with COVID-19 funding, so Smith said these funds would have been primarily used to pay for personnel.
“If the levy (passed) we would (have brought) in 11 full-time officer and at least six part-time officers,” Smith said. “(It would have) allowed us to effectively patrol the streets.”
The opioid epidemic has plagued the region in recent years, so Smith said that these officers are needed because of the increase in crime in the area.
When the levy failed last time some residents said they didn’t see the value the department was bringing to the township.
“The risk of losing law enforcement worries me, however the current law enforcement job performance doesn’t seem up to standards, especially for the taxes and funding the police currently have,” said Tennie Deibel, Franklin Township resident. “I am not sure where my taxes are exactly going as our community needs work, so my standpoint is simple – police enforcement in our community is extremely important, however the current police situation seems wasteful and unnecessary – so at this time I personally would like to know the changes that would be made. Such a shame to see the change my community has endured with the change in police patrolling over the years.”
Other residents said they were not sold on the idea of another levy, especially when a fire levy was recently passed.
“I am a huge supporter of law enforcement, (but) I am not in favor of another tax hike,” said David W. Byers, township resident. “The fire levy passed a while back and the township is still short of firefighters, and I heard the possibility of firefighters still could be laid off, so where are our tax dollars going? I understand expenses, etc. Is the money being used properly? What about our roads, all the abandoned houses and neglected properties in the township that have been there for years, even decades, and not much has been done about them. I may consider voting for a police levy in the future but not this year.”
However, despite this feedback the township moved forward with the recent levy and plans to ask voters again.
“As long as the board supports it, we will try it again until it passes,” Smith said. “With the price of everything dramatically going up, we need this levy to pass to operate.”
For information on the Franklin Township Police Department levy, visit www.franklin-township.com.