After taking a police levy off the May ballot Feb. 28, township trustees introduced a resolution Monday to place a 3.85-mill, five-year additional police levy on an Aug. 2 ballot.
The board unanimously approved the first reading of the resolution, which will be sent to the Mahoning County auditor for certification. The resolution will have a second reading at the trustees’ April 25 meeting, and if approved, it will be sent to the Mahoning County Board of Elections for certification.
“The whole township is working very hard with limited resources, but the time has come where you can’t wait until November or next year. I think we have to act now,” said Trustee Larry Moliterno.
If approved by voters, the levy would generate about $3.6 million annually designated for the police department. It would cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 an estimated $117 annually in additional taxes.
The township will have to spend money for a special election. The cost to staff and process results from the township’s 50 precincts will be between $40,000 and $50,000 — and it would have cost the same amount if the levy appeared on the May ballot because there are no county or statewide measures on it.
There is no cost to the township to place a levy on the November general election ballot.
Thomas P. McCabe, director of the county elections board, has said previously that in Boardman about 35 percent of registered voters cast ballots in special elections.
Trustee Chairman Thomas Costello said that after rushing to place a police levy on the May ballot, soon after an additional police levy failed by a difference of 430 votes in November, the board wanted to take time and hear residents’ thoughts. Meetings took place in area churches.
Costello said trustees will continue to pursue other long-term revenue sources, such as a township sales tax and service fees.
Even though it’s a “tough economy” to go to the voters and ask for more money, the board believed that residents wanted the township to remain safe, Costello said.
Police Chief Jack Nichols said at the department’s current level of 47 officers, down from 63 a few years ago, “the community is under-policed.”
Nichols added that he is displeased with the number of marked patrol cars on the road, the increasing length of response time, the number of cases not investigated and the influx of narcotics locations and dealers, saying it makes him “damned mad.”
Trustee Brad Calhoun said that if the police levy passes, the priority is to hire new police officers.
“The goal would be to increase officers … and hopefully get that process started if it’s approved and be able to announce some names [of new officers] in January and February,” Calhoun said, declining to give specific numbers of officers.
Calhoun said the plan for levy money remains the same. The roughly $3.6 million generated annually by the police levy would stay in the police department. The general-fund money going to the police department will be scaled back, possibly by $2 million, but the police budget would still increase overall, he said.
The police budget for 2011 is about $7 million, out of the township’s $17 million total budget.
The police levy millage remained the same even though the township saw cuts in state funding, because of about $500,000 saved from changes to township employees’ health-care plans, Calhoun said.
“It was $500,000 savings and that offset our local government funds, and my guess is we’ll have an opportunity to meet again between now and next year at this time to maybe do some more changes,” he said.
He also noted the township will save money when police officers retire and new officers are hired at a salary of $16 per hour.
In the early 1970s, Boardman voters approved a police district that included a continuing levy that now generates about $1.5 million annually. Voters in 2008 also approved a safety levy for both police and fire services, generating about $2 million annually.
One of the most recent special elections in the township was in February 2007 when a 3.5-mill bond issue for Boardman schools appeared on the ballot. About 29 percent of registered voters cast ballots and rejected the issue by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, according to Vindicator files.