Tax Increase Or Public Safety Cuts?

By: Jamie Edmonds Email
By: Jamie Edmonds Email

Meridian township firefighters hit the streets Tuesday, trying to get the word out about what they call a dire situation.

"I don't know how we continue to do business and provide the services we do with less people than we have now," Firefighter Bill Richardson said. "We're already at the breaking point."

As proposed, the 2011 township budget cuts eight positions from both police and fire departments. The township manager blames declining property taxes and cuts to state revenue sharing, and he said 2012 could be even worse.

"In 2012, up to 10 positions could be reduced," Jerry Richards, Meridian Township manager, said.

But there is a way to stop the bleeding, Richards said, and it's called the Headlee Override.

"The Headlee Amendment came in the 1970s as a means to keep the cost of taxes at or below the rate of inflation," he said.

On November's ballot, the township will ask voters to reverse that rule and increase the millage from 4.2 to the maximum 5 mills for the next six years.

Firefighters passed out cards Tuesday, hoping to put this confusing issue in black and white.

The township manager said he proposed the 2011 budget as if the ballot proposal failed, but if it were to pass, some positions could be restored.

"Six positions could be restored," Richards said.

If it fails, Richardson said, response times will most certainly increase and ambulance service will definitely decrease.

"We won't be able to staff four ambulances, maybe not even three," he said.

It's a scary situation the firefighters said they'd like to avoid, which is why they'll be out knocking on doors until November.

The firefighters said even if the millage increase were to pass, 90 percent of taxpayers in the township will pay less in taxes than they did this year.

Richards said for the average homeowner of a $200,000 house, with a taxable value of $100,000 would pay about $80 more per year if the override passed in November.

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