By Amanda Ensinger
Residents will once again be asked to support first responders at the polls this year as a local township seeks a levy. The Franklin Township Police Department has a levy that will be expiring and needs at least a renewal to continue current operations.
The township has a five-year timed levy for the police department that will expire at the end of 2022, according to Franklin Township Police Chief Byron Smith. The township is looking at adding a levy to the ballot in 2021.
Smith said the department needs the funds to continue to keep the staffing at current levels. He said prior to this levy being approved, the department only had four full-time staff and were operating limited hours and shifts.
The department is working with township trustees to determine if they will be asking for another timed levy or combining all their current levies into one.
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.
“If we combine everything into one, it could save taxpayers money,” Smith said. “However, if combining them into one doesn’t save the residents money, we will probably just do another timed levy.”
The township has asked the auditor to pull various numbers to see what the best course of action is and then will determine which levy they will ask voters to approve.
However, Smith said if they did have one permanent levy, it would help with planning for the future.
“When you have a temporary levy, you don’t have stability and it is hard to retain officers because they leave due to fears of job loss,” Smith said. “We have already lost two full-time officers because of fears of being laid off.”
Smith added it is frustrating to train officers and then have them leave for another department because they are concerned about job security. He said they invest in officers and then they take the skills they have learned and leave.
“It makes it difficult from a management standpoint to run a department and plan for the future,” he said.
Currently, including Smith, the department has 12 full-time staff and two part-time officers.
Leadership would like to see the levy on the ballot in 2021 in case it fails so they have another chance to run it before the current levy expires.
“We like to get ahead of these things and ask for a levy significantly ahead of when it will expire so if voters don’t pass it, we have time to ask again before it expires,” said Mark Potts, township administrator. “We like to have several opportunities to get a levy passed and have plenty of time to plan for the future, so asking for these levies before they expire gives us an opportunity to do that.”
According to Potts, the township does have a history of levies failing at least once before they are approved by voters.
The township has seen an increase in crime over the past few years, including issues with robbery, drugs and other felony offenses. Smith said this levy would help them continues to tackle these issues, as well as have the budget to keep officers on the streets.
Some of the additional services this levy could fund include hiring an investigator, providing more attention to drug houses and continuing to fight to opioid epidemic. Smith said if the levy does not pass, not only would they not be able to proactively investigate these issues, they also would 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.”
In the coming months, the township plans to announce what type of levy it will asking voters for, as well as when voters can expect to see this on the ballot.