EM: police, fire millage necessary

Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK — The city is facing a $4 million deficit and can’t maintain public safety services at existing levels, Emergency Manager Joyce Parker said Tuesday in response to questions about the proposed police and fire millage.

The city’s budget shows police and fire services cost $10 million per year.

Parker, in a statement, said the proposed 10-year time frame for the millage will allow enough time to stabilize the city’s finances and eliminate the deficit spending because the current millage does not raise enough funds or provide enough time to support current police and fire staffing.

At the May 28 city council meeting, Parker said the current estimate of the police and fire departments’ overtime costs were estimated at $200,000 and $300,000, respectively, in the amended budget.

The actual costs presented at the meeting were $341,000 in 10 months with a projected final cost of $427,000 at the end of the fiscal year. These are lower than the estimated $500,000 allowed in the budget.

The city is seeking to increase the police and fire millage by three and one quarter 3.25 mills to keep the police and fire service in Allen Park at the response times residents expect, she said in the statement, which would bring it to a level of six and three-quarters 6.75 mills.

“The additional mills are necessary to maintain existing police and fire services at their current levels,” the statement said. “Without the additional levy, service delivery will be modified and may decrease compared to the current level.”

In terms of dollars and cents, she said this millage would be an increase in taxes by about $274 yearly for residents and over the last five years, the average property tax payment has decreased by 28 percent.

“The city is requesting that Allen Park taxpayers restore the 5 percent of the 28 percent savings to support police and fire services,” she said in the statement.

The statement also said residents stated maintaining police and fire services is a top priority and comments were made that they would prefer an increased millage rather than cut police and fire protection service levels.

The language of the proposal allows the city to determine the number of mills it levies based on need and Parker’s intent is to levy only the amount necessary to meet operational expenses and a 10 percent operating reserve, the statement said.

The ballot amendment states the millage will not exceed 6.75 mills and Parker said, in the statement, she will issue an order committing to a rollback provision which would allow a decrease in the millage when the city has met its expense and the reserve goals.

The millage is meant to accompany other reforms the city is currently pursuing, the statement said, such as additional reforms in operational expenses — wage concessions, health care and pension reforms, refinancing the Southfield Lease Properties, and creating more efficient services to reduce costs and increase revenue.

Also, the statement said the city is looking into merging police and fire services, but this would not be a short-term fix to its finances.

Downsizing was considered by the city, but the statement said “there is nothing left to cut without decreasing the current service levels” and there have been 24 positions eliminated from both the fire and police departments — seven in the fire department and 17 in the police department — over the last five years.

If the millage amendment does not pass, Parker said in the statement, a plan to eliminate 15 firefighters and six police officers, staff the departments with part-time employees, allow one furlough day a week for all employees, reduce AFSCME and non-union wages by 10 percent and impose street light special assessment to residents will be implemented immediately.

(Gabriel Goodwin can be reached at ggoodwin@bewickpublications.com.)