Sumpter Township Police Lt. Eric Luke led a community forum last Thursday to explain the reason the township is seeking an additional one mill of taxes for police operations.
The question will be on the May 3 ballot and Lt. Luke said he will hold another community forum at the end of April to inform voters who couldn’t attend the March 24 session.
Luke was in uniform, but explained he was appearing as a private citizen and was in uniform because he had just gotten off work for the day.
About 40 people attended the forum, with about half of them township employees.
Luke gave a power-point presentation on the situation, while members of the audience in the community center gym pondered printed handouts on the millage.
Luke said last November voters passed the two-mill renewal for police operations by a vote of 3 to 1. Each mill brings about $300,000.
Since the police department had had cost-cutting measures in 2009-10, they thought the two mills renewal would be all they needed.
But then the landfill royalties went down substantially, some $1.4 million over two years.
He said police are negotiating a pay cut and they are in the process of negotiating a steep increase in out-of-pocket cost.
Luke said Sumpter employees have no health care for them and their spouses after retirement, but Belleville does, as do other communities.
He said they had talked about it over the years, but it was not negotiated and, “The ship has sailed on something like that.”
He said since March 2009, there have been many cuts. The ordinance department is completely gone, but the dog pound is run better than ever. The department is down by four officers and they’re still able the get the job done.
The police went from a $2 million budget in 2008-9 to $1.5 million proposed in 2011-12.
Luke said he looked at the 2009 Benchmarks set by Southeastern Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) which determined the best practice as paying $197 per capita for police costs.
He said it is determined by dividing the police budget by the population.
He said Sumpter Township’s cost is $172 for 2010 and would be $140 for 2011.
Other nearby departments have the following per-capita police costs: Belleville $333; Van Buren Township $255; Huron Township, $209; Grosse Pointe, $630; River Rouge, $462; and Highland Park, $242.
Luke said Sumpter’s millage is 35, with only 4.7 mills coming back to the township and the rest going for various county uses. Sumpter now pays 1 mill for the township, 1 mill for fire, 2 mills for police, and .7 mill for library.
During the discussion a man said the voters have another thing looming before them: millage for a new library.
“Voters have to choose what’s more important to them,” Luke said.
Randy Brown asked what would happen if this millage request doesn’t pass and Luke said they would have to start cutting people.
“It wouldn’t look good,” Luke said.
“It would be ugly,” Brown agreed.
“It’s scary,” Luke added.
Jim Posegay pointed out that not very many people were at the forum and so everyone has to get the word out to their friends and neighbors about the need for the millage.
“I hear people saying too many cars, too many officers, too many trucks, too many firemen,” Posegay said.
Luke said he’s heard that about the cars before and you can’t run cars 24 hours a day because it wears them out.
“When police diminish, criminals take over. Why wouldn’t they?” Luke asked.
He said those with questions on the millage may call him at the police department for answers, 461-4833.
He said the same yard signs used last fall for the millage vote will be reused for this vote, with a cover over the “renewal” part.
“We thought we’d put them away for five years,” Luke said of how they felt about the signs after last fall’s successful renewal vote.