UNION — The city of Union passed two resolutions Monday declaring the necessity of an additional police levy and an additional fire/EMS levy, both in excess of the ten-mill limitation, to be certified by the county auditor to establish the current tax valuation and the amount of revenue each levy would generate.
According to city officials, each levy would cost the owner of a home valued at $80,000 approximately $5.83 per month or a combined total of 38 cents per day. Both levies would be 2.5 mills and would be placed on the May ballot.
“We have been talking about this for probably close to two or three years,” said City Manager John Applegate. “With the approval of the budget for Fiscal Year 2018 it is quite clear that we need to come up with additional funding for both departments.”
The last police replacement levy was passed in 2004 along with a levy for an additional 2.5 mills for the fire department.
“As you know we have scraped by and made it work but we are now to a point that we can’t kick that can down the road any longer,” Applegate told council. “We have to come up with some way of raising additional funds for the fire and police.”
He pointed out that in 2016 the city had to transfer $25,000 from its general fund to the police department and in 2017 a total of $52,000 was transferred and for 2018 it is project $63,000 would need to be transferred to support the police department. Applegate said that amount could increase by another $5,000 to $10,000 depending on how funds are expended during the year or problems that might develop.
The same holds true for the fire department. In 2016 the city transferred $107,000 and $179,500 in 2017. Budget projections estimate $74,500 would need to be transferred out of the general fund to support fire/EMS operations this year, but Applegate said he could almost guarantee that figure would double by the end of the year.
“We have seen a drop in revenue from 2016 to 2017 for EMS of almost $30,000,” Applegate said. “Part of that is due to the billing through Medicare/Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act and other regulations. We need to raise additional money because those two departments actually need to stand on their own.”
Applegate said the city looked at several alternatives such as an income tax increase but the budget committee chose to stay with levy proposals to generate funding.
“Both levies would allow us to continue to provide service that needs to be provided and what our citizens have come to expect, and it is a decision they need to make,” Applegate stated. “The ballot box is one way to help determine whether they will approve it or not.”
The deadline to submit the proposed levies to the county for certification is February 7. After the county sends the proposals back as being OK the city would have to pass another resolution to place the levies on the ballot.
“We need to get this done. We don’t have a lot of time,” Applegate said, adding that he thought the city would have until the end of February. “This gives you a rough idea of what we need to fund both departments for at least another five years.”
Vice Mayor John Bruns, who sits on the budget committee, pointed out that the monies generated by the levies can only be used to fund police and fire operations.
“We can transfer funds into those departments’ budgets to make them balance, but we can’t take any money from those levies out of them… so all that money is for the police and the fire departments,” Bruns noted.
When the initial fire levy was passed the city purchased a new ambulance, the fire station was remodeled and new fire engine was purchased.
“Everything we said we would do back in 2004, we did,” Applegate added. “It is sitting over there, it’s operational and it’s running and working. When we looked at the police levy, it would bring the force back up to seven full-time officers.”
Lt. Darren Goudy recently left to become the police chief in Hillsboro, so the city hired two full-time officers to bring the number back up to seven. The city had been using part-time officers to offset costs, but Applegate noted that it is getting harder to find part-time officers as other city’s raise their pay scales making it necessary for Union to stay competitive.