September 19, 2012 - Brandon Twp.-By a 5-1 vote on Monday night the board of trustees OK'd to levy the maximum about for police funding. Township Treasurer Terry Beltramo, who did not seek reelection this fall voted no. Tom Stowell was absent
About 80 residents turned out to hear the deliberation during the Truth in Taxation hearing regarding the police millage. The two police millages combined will now be 3.5286 mills. Levying the full police millage will be an increase of $28 per year in taxes for a home valued at $200,000 and take effect on the December 2012 tax bill.
Supervisor Kathy Thurman was impressed by the support for the police department.
"We are at a point if we continue to cut it would the police service we are providing to the township, Although I did not like having to move the mills up to the full amount, it was only way to avoid cutting more deputies. At some point when taxable values increase at a rate faster then expenditures, we'll be able to levy fewer mills. But I don't see that happening in the near future. We are also supporting police funding with the general fund."
The township board approved a 1-year contract with the Oakland County Sheriff's Office last November which provided for 11.5 deputies, at a cost of roughly $1.4 million. Township officials cut police staff by three and a half positions in 2010 due to budget concerns. The Brandon School Board brought back the school liaison officer using their own funding, but he is assigned strictly to the schools and does not do road patrol. Another deputy is shared with Independence Township on the midnight shift.
The vote means police coverage will remain the same for the township.
In 1992, voters approved 4 mills for police coverage, but that rate was reduced due to the Headlee Amendment to 2.8505. In 1996, voters approved an additional police millage of .7689, but the Headlee Amendment reduced that to .6781. Currently, the maximum amount that could be levied would be 3.5286 mills. However, the township was only levying 3.25
Thurman, as well as Oakland County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Pete Burkett both warn that without the increase, the township would have cut yet another police officer, and quite possibly close the township substation.
"I would really like to thank the community for the great turn out on Monday night and the support," said Burkett. "It was very humbling hearing the comments regarding the sheriff's department work here in Brandon Township. We don't hear such accolades that often. The decision to levy the maximum amount is a step in the right direction for the township. Since 1996 we have saved the township about $2 million in taxes by keeping cost down."
Since 1996, the full millage was not levied, because the funds weren't necessary to sustain the police force. Burkett said another deputy cut, would have been below the minimum staffing allowed for safety in the township. The minimum is two deputies per patrol shift for the safety of the deputies and the citizens he added.
Even with the increase in millage money from the general fund is still necessary added Thurman.
"The new board (of trustees) is going to have to determine just how much will be needed to balance the police budget," she said.
The board had planed to transfer $100,000 from the general fund to the police budget for 2013 and another $100,000 in 2014, Thurman said, because there is not enough funding in the police budget to pay for the current level of police service.
The township board was divided on whether to increase the police millage to the full amount that can be levied.
Treasurer Beltramo, voted against rasing the millage noted that some of the boardmembers want to increase the police millage to the maximum allowable now and when the millage comes up for renewal, ask for an increase.
"First, I collect the taxes," he said. "I see people that can't pay their taxes. My heart goes out to these people. We at the township have not done enough cuts. There are still a lot of non mandated items that could have beeen eliminated and I'm not talking about the Edna Burton Senior Center. When people start moving from the township who's going to pay those taxes? It then becomes delinquent and costs everyone."
"On Monday night I don't think one person agreed with me—but I'm standing on my principles. Two board members changed their vote and Tom (Stowell) was absent that night. I'm not sure but I would say he would have voted no. I'm assuming too that everyone at that meeting that turned out to support the police had an income and could sustain themselves. That's not the case for everyone in the township."
Beltramo said sharing deputies with another township, or dispatching deputies to Brandon from a substation located in a community such as Oxford or Independence could be an advantage.