Source: Sherman Publications

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Public hearing set to discuss township police funding

by David Fleet

July 18, 2012

Atlas Twp.- The township board of trustees has set a public hearing for 7 p.m., Sept 17 to discuss adjusting the amount and possibly the method of collecting police funding for area law enforcement.

The township established a contract with the Genesee County Sheriff's Office about 13 years ago, funded by 1 mill from area property owners. Since 2007 the cost for police protection has risen from $432,205 to $538,653 in 2012, about a 24 percent increase. At issue is a special assessment that was established in 2006 which included $50 for every improved lot and $25 for unimproved lots. Township officials implemented the special assessment to offset the necessary increase in police funding. The special assessment was renewed in 2010 by a 4-1 vote. There is one year left on the 1 mill.

Last year a committee was established to research ways law enforcement could be funded in the township. Those findings were released on June 18.

Tere Onica, township clerk, said the public hearing will be a forum for discussion regarding the options to collect the necessary funding.

"The recent report from the police advisory board was excellent, but we need to decide just what direction the township is going," she said. "The public hearing will enlist options for the township regarding just how we are to fund the sheriff contract."

Onica said that while the current special assessment of $50/$25 has been challenged and is technically illegal, there's still room for discussion.

"Several communities including Argentine Township and Hadley Township use special assessments for roads, garbage and police. The current law regarding special assessments is poorly written—the intent of the legislation is wrong," she said.

While Supervisor Shirley Kautman-Jones agrees there should be a public hearing, she disagrees on the special assessment issue.

"Our society is based on value," she said.

"If you take your tax bill, you're going to pay for all services, whether it's the library, schools, or parks, you pay based on the value of your home."

"When I took office I supported the Constitution of the United States and the State of Michigan—it's all part of the law. Just because other communities are using special assessments illegally does not make it right for us. It's easy to debate why one resident should or should not pay as much as another. Granted, if the township switched to value based tax I would pay more for police millage, but so be it. It's the law."