Council members discuss more taxes for police
By Scott Rawdon
BUCKEYE LAKE- Buckeye Lake Village Council member and Finance Committee Chair Hilde Hildebrandt told council members Tuesday night that the current Buckeye Lake Police Department three-mill levy is not covering the department's expenses.
Council members met to discuss the department's finances during Tuesday night's regularly scheduled finance committee meeting.
"We may be without police coverage. Is that what the village wants?" asked Hildebrandt.
Mayor Frank Foster said the current levy is generating about $96,000 to $98,000 per year, and the department's annual expenses are roughly $230,000. "That number should go down further," he said. The general fund covers the balance.
The meeting, poorly attended by the public, was minimally advertised. All council members attended the meeting.
Foster said that any further funding cuts to the department would jeopardize the village's ability to offer 24-hour police protection. He said he wants to hear from the residents whether the village should place a levy on the ballot or make additional cuts. "Any feedback would be helpful," he said.
A resident, who didn't identify himself, said, "Our police officersdo a really good job. The people who complain are the ones who get into trouble." To the people who don't want police, he said, "I'll call them up when I have a problem."
The resident said he hasn't heard much chatter in the village about the police department. "We can't pass (a levy) with a handful of people," he said.
Council member Shelly Swick asked if a levy would pass more easily if the officers personally handed out literature about the levy when off-duty.
The resident said the only way to pass a levy is through word of mouth.
"We're willing to do anything. We don't want to lose our department," said Police Chief Ron Small.
Resident Kay Allen said there would be no progress in the village - such as significantnew development - without adequate police protection. She said the village should consider cutting village positions outside of the police department to cover its expenses. "We've got to figure out how to keep the (officers) we've got," she said.
The previous night, during the regular Buckeye Lake Village Council meeting, Hildebrandt said the village should consider placing a five-mill police levy on the March ballot to replace the current three-mill levy. She said a five-mill levy would cost the average household about 32 cents per day.
Foster stressed that a five-mill levy would replace the currently levy; it would not be assessed in addition to the current levy.
Council member Drew Bourne said the police haven't had a raise in seven years.
"It boils down to you have to educate (people) about the money," said police Captain James Hanzey. He said people just see that they have to pay more money with a levy and don't know where it's being used.
Council member Jeryne Peterson said Licking County is large and the sheriff's office is understaffed. Response could be very slow if there were no local police.
The resident said Small should write a Letter to the Editor to local media, definingspecificallyhow the money from a levy would be distributed, and definingthe current needs of the department. "The only reason these levies ain't passing is nobody knows what the levy is for," he said. Without a local police department, residents wouldn't be familiar with the officerswho would come to their door when called.
"That's absolutely right," said Foster. "If people don't know who the police are coming to their door, that's not good." He added that he wanted the public to know the police department needed money before an issue was placed on the ballot, as opposed to placing the issue first, then trying to convince everyone there's a problem.
Bourne said many people don't know that the police department doesn't get any more money from new homes. The department receives the same amount of revenue, but each property owner pays less tax as the number of homes and businesses increases.