Voters say no to Franklin Township police levy

By Amanda Ensinger
Staff Writer

Residents in Franklin Township overwhelmingly rejected a proposed police levy on the primary ballot, held on May 4. According to the unofficial results from the Franklin County Board of Elections, the levy failed with 66.43 percent voting against the measure.

The 7.37-mill continuing additional tax levy for the Franklin Township Police Department would have cost taxpayers $737 a year per $100,000 home valuation.

“It would have cost roughly an extra $13 per $100,000 of value, once the timed levy would have been rescinded,” said Mark Potts, township administrator.

The levy would have replaced a five-year timed levy the township current has that is set to expire at the end of 2022, said Franklin Township Police Chief Byron Smith.

The board debated weather to ask for a permanent or timed levy and when to ask taxpayers for this. In November 2020, the township received approval from taxpayers for a 5.89-mill replacement fire levy, so there were concerns about asking voters for back-to-back levies. This is the second levy the township asked for in a two-year period.

Smith said he wanted to present the levy to voters sooner rather than later in case it failed. This gives the department several more times to present the levy before it expires.

Franklin Township trustees John Fleshman and Ralph Horn agreed with this strategy.

“We work for the people of Franklin Township and we wanted to present all options to them and let them decide what they want their police department to look like,” Fleshman said. “By presenting a permanent levy now, we can see what the public thinks and if they don’t support it then we know what they are comfortable with.”

Fleshman said a permanent levy would have helped the township plan more long term for the police department and not have to go back to the voters every four years for a renewal.
If it were approved, the levy would have generated over an additional million dollars for the department. However, the current timed levy the department has would have gone away.

“According to the auditor’s certificate, it would have collected $1.4 million based on the current valuation,” Potts said.

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 funds from the levy would have been used for operational expenses, including paying for salary, equipment and other department needs.

Smith recently said if the levy didn’t pass, 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.”

Currently, the department has 10 full-time and two part-time officers, including the chief. They typically have 13 full-time and six part-time officers.

Fleshman said while he supports permanent levies, if the residents of Franklin Township prefer timed levies, they need to consider that going forward.

“We need to listen to what our residents are telling us,” Fleshman said. “If they keep rejecting permanent levies and are more comfortable with timed levies, we need to respect that.”

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