New Richmond considering a levy

New Richmond Village Council members are torn about whether or not to include a police department levy on the November election ballot.

Council members attended a special meeting July 17 to further discuss the possibility of a levy and are still hashing out details.

Police Chief Randy Harvey talked with council members about the need for funds during the meeting.

“I want to provide a service to the village that is top notch,” Harvey said. “I can’t do that under these conditions.”

Harvey said the department has been running two officers short, especially considering the amount of work for them to do in the village.

“This year has been extremely stressful on the officers,” Harvey said. “This village is way too busy to have one officer on a shift.”

He said the department is also in need of a new police car and in need of funds to repay 911 service charges.

Councilman Nick Wolf said that while he supports the police department, he doesn’t think it is a good idea to go to the voters with a levy this year.

“I think we can get through 2013 if we use the general fund,” Wolf said. “I think a year from now we will have much more luck.”

Wolf said he did not think voters would approve a levy this year because of the economy. He said maybe next year, after the presidential election, they would have more luck.

Wolf and councilman Paul Vanderbosch also suggested an earnings tax as opposed to a property tax and said with more time they could educate people in the village about what the tax would mean.

Councilman Rich Mathews said he does believe they can get a 3 mil levy passed this year and is worried about the police department without additional funds.

“I think we need to try,” Mathews said. “If we don’t try we might as well do layoffs now and get it over with.”

Mathews said if they don’t try to get a levy passed residents might also ask why they didn’t try once they do have to begin making layoffs.

“We want to support a police department, at least let’s try,” he said.

Council members discussed the numbers that would potentially be generated if a 3 mil levy was approved by voters.

Vice Mayor Richard Hilt said approximately $155,000 would come in for the levy.

Chief Harvey said the money would help pay for the departments expenses including 911 service fees, vehicle needs and officer costs.

After looking at numbers, Chief Harvey agreed that it may be possible for the police department to operate next year, but only with money from the general fund.

He said relying on money from the general fund worried him.

“I could foresee that becoming an issue,” he said. “Is the general fund going to support the things I need that are coming up?”

Council members could not promise Chief Harvey that the general fund would support everything he needed, but they all agreed that they would support the police department any way they could.

Chief Harvey also said if the village does use the general fund to support the police department, it will only keep the department functioning at the level it is now, which he said isn’t enough.

“I agree we could probably survive for the next year,” Chief Harvey said. “Even at that it does not improve efficiency of the department.”

Council members did not make a decision about the levy at the special meeting. They plan to vote on the levy at their July 24 council meeting.