By Amanda Ensinger
The Franklin Township trustees will examine information related to a police levy for the township.
At a recent board meeting, Franklin Township Police Chief Byron Smith said asking voters for another temporary levy for the department won’t work.
“A temporary levy won’t sustain us through the end of the year,” he said. “I would like to petition the county auditor to pull numbers related to replacing all three levies the department currently has with one permanent levy.”
Right now, the police department operates with two permanent levies and one temporary or timed levy. The timed levy brings in approximately $600,000 a year and combined the two permanent levies bring in approximately $750,000 a year.
Smith said that the department needs to get this levy passed as soon as possible as they are losing officers because of job insecurity fears. He said they have already lost one full-time officer and anticipate losing another in the coming weeks. He said once that happens, they will only have 10 full-time officers including himself and two part-time officers.
Previously, the department had 12 full-time officers and two part-time officers.
Trustee John Fleshman said while he supports having the auditor look into this, he is concerned that residents won’t understand they are combining all their existing levies into one.
“If we combine these together it makes it appear it is more than it is,” Fleshman said. “If we just ask residents to make the one temporary levy permanent, they may understand that more.”
Trustee Aryeh Alex said it doesn’t hurt to pull the numbers and then the board can discuss next steps at an upcoming meeting.
Smith previously said if a levy isn’t passed, they will not only not be able to proactively investigate issues like drug trafficking, robberies and other felony offenses, they also will lose about half of their current staff.
“We will lose a minimum of five officers,” he said. “We also will only be able to take priority runs and won’t be able to focus on the drug houses or other crime in the region.”
At the meeting, Smith also asked the board to approve allowing overtime for officers since they are currently down several staff members.
“Due to being short staffed, we have officers working by themselves, which is not safe,” Smith said. “I would like to ask the board to allow overtime on a case-by-case basis since this is a safety concern. We have a big township and a lot of high crime areas.”
Smith did say this could create a small shortfall at the end of the year.
While some trustees supported this, Franklin Township Fiscal Office Mary Rhinehart had reservations.
“This is the first time I have heard this; this may not be in the budget and could effect cuts later,” she said. “We need to evaluate the savings from fewer staff and the cost of over time to see if it equals out or is less.”
Alex said the board should consider putting Chief Smith and the lieutenant on the streets to help officers until these financial matters are researched further.
“We have severe budget issues,” Alex said. “We should put the chief and lieutenant on the road first before spend additional money.”
The board did approve allowing Smith to start a background check on replacing the officer that recently left but agreed to table the request for overtime until the next meeting.