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More taxes or less police?

Necessary changes to keep deputies include levying full police millage rate of 3.5286

August 03, 2011 - Brandon Twp.- Township officials cut police staff by three and a half positions last year. Now, unless changes are made, residents may lose three more deputies and subsequently, the substation here.

The necessary changes to keep the deputies include levying the full police millage rate of 3.5286, and supplementing the police fund from the general fund. The township currently levies 3.25 mills for police.

"I don't think we have an alternative other than to levy the full mills, supplement the police from the general fund and squeak by until the economy turns around," said Supervisor Kathy Thurman. "If we don't, we may have to cut three officers. That would be extremely painful and we would be in danger of not having a substation in our township. We would have to subcontract (police services) with an adjoining township or do a joint contract with another township. Hopefully, it won't come to that."

The board had numerous budget workshops throughout 2010 as they sought to balance the budget and develop a three-year financial plan for the township. Budget cuts included the elimination of a K-9 deputy, a deputy I desk officer, and the school liaison officer. The board also agreed to eliminate half of an Oakland County Sheriff Deputy II (no-fill) position and to consolidate the midnight po-lice patrol shifts between Brandon and Independence townships.

The decisions took the staffing of the Brandon substation from 14 to 10.5. The Brandon School Board brought back the school liaison officer using their own funding, so technically the substation now has 11.5 deputies, but the school liaison officer is assigned strictly to the schools and does not do road patrol. A reduction of three more patrol deputies would make it impossible to retain a substation here, said Sgt. Pete Burkett, Brandon substation commander.

Burkett oversees supervision of the substation and Detective Dale Brown investigates cases, currently leaving the township with 8.5 deputies to patrol roads and answer calls for service, seven days a week, with three shifts a day, and each deputy receiving two days off per week. A minimum of two deputies per shift is required in the event back-up is needed on a call. Burkett noted the township, which has roughly 15,000 residents, is already operating well below the FBI standard of one police officer per 1,000 residents.

Since Jan. 1, when the township has had only one full-time deputy on patrol in the township during the midnight shift and has shared a second deputy with Independence Township during those hours, Burkett said there have been several incidents where only one deputy has responded to calls that would normally require two deputies, putting the officer in danger.

"If they cut any more officers, we could not operate safely," he said. "The Oakland County Sheriff's Office could say the township has to find another option for law enforcement... To form their own police department would cost the township double what they pay now for police services. People have to realize, unfortunately, we're going to have to pay for it."

Declining property values have impacted the ability to fund many services, including police protection. A township fiscal priorities survey returned by more than 800 respondents a year ago found an overwhelming majority believe that police service is "very important" and 558 respondents disagreed that the police force should be reduced, with only 209 supportive of a decrease in officers. However, respondents were almost evenly split on paying an additional $28 per year in taxes to keep the level of law enforcement unchanged, with 391 favoring an increase in the millage and 382 disapproving.

The board will have a budget workshop regarding the 2012 budget during a special meeting set for 6:30 p.m., Aug. 8 at the township offices, 395 Mill St.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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