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January 23, 2013

Council plans to ask for police, fire millage renewal

By Kristyne E. Demske
C & G Staff Writer

Language will come before City Council this winter to renew the police and fire millage approved by voters in 2010.

Proposal 2, approved in November 2010, was a three-year, 2-mill tax increase that promised 50 firefighters and 90 police personnel. It was estimated to cost the average homeowner $112 annually and generated about $3.4 million in its first year.

The last year the city can levy the millage, however, is 2013, which is why officials had to consider whether or not to renew the tax.

“Three years goes awfully quick,” said Mayor Kip Walby during a Jan. 14 City Council study session.

Councilman John Caron recommended that the city put the measure on the ballot as a renewal in the August primary election.

“People voted this through back in 2010, with a very large turnout compared with city elections,” he said. “Knowing our financial situation … I don’t see where we’re going to need to even look at reducing fire personnel or police personnel in the next three years.”

Acting City Manager Mike Smith said a three-year renewal of the millage would help the city keep its budget in balance.

“We would still be using fund balance, but would not put us below the $5 million fund-balance level in three years,” he said.

He said the minimum staffing promises in each department were based on levels at the time.

“We all need to go forward with one voice, with regard to this millage,” he said.

“This is minimums,” Councilman Peter Rubino said. “Both departments are doing a great job. I’m just comfortable moving forward with what we have.”

Smith said he would work with the city attorney and city clerk to draft language to be approved by council in time for the August election, possibly as soon as March.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Kristyne E. Demske at kdemske@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1041.