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Editorial: Police millages deserve YES votes

October 27, 2010 - Nine times out of 10 whenever government asks for a tax increase it's because officials have either squandered the money we've already given them or they need more funds for some grandiose scheme or lavish project.

But there are those rare occasions in which a tax increase is actually warranted.

Oxford Township's request for a five-year, 0.75-mill increase to fund police services is one of those instances.

The taxpayers have before them a very clear choice. They can either vote to increase their tax bill by roughly $75 per year or cut their police staffing by five officers.

The idea of losing five out of 15 cops a full third of the police force is unacceptable to those who wish to live in a safe community.

Unlike other government services, the township's police budget is not packed with fat that could be trimmed.

Of the $2.15 million police budget, $1.98 million pays for the contract and overtime costs that keep deputies patrolling our roads and investigators solving crimes.

The remainder is for substation rent, a full-time administrative assistant to handle paperwork and answer phones, janitorial services, postage, office supplies, legal fees, etc.

As budgets go, it's a conservative one.

Overall, the township's been fiscally responsible when it comes to spending taxpayer money. It's not the government's fault that property values keep falling, resulting in less and less revenue to fund basic services like law enforcement.

A no-vote on the millage increase won't punish the township or the Oakland County Sheriff's Department. It will, however, hurt the community and the residents within it who want their lives and property effectively protected.

A tax hike is preferable to an increased crime rate, which can lead to even lower property values and higher homeowners insurance premiums.

It's true that now is not the time for tax increases to finance luxuries like senior centers, safety paths and new buildings. But police services are not a luxury; they're a basic necessity like roads and the fire department.

Therefore, we recommend Oxford Township residents vote YES on the five-year, 0.75-mill increase for police services.

We also recommend they vote YES on the three-year, 2.9152-mill renewal for police services. A renewal is a renewal; no reason to turn it down.

Hopefully, when times are better and property values go up again, township officials will remember the sacrifices made by taxpayers to keep the community safe and give them a break on future millages. Officials always have the option of levying a lower millage rate than approved by voters.

One good turn deserves another. CJC

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