Possible Local Public Safety Millage Is Being Considered
Facing stagnating values on real properties, an increase in the police service budget by tens of thousands of dollars, and an expected personal property revenue elimination by the State of Michigan, Saugatuck City Manager Kirk Harrier has posed two questions:
“As a community, what do you want and what are you willing to pay for?”
Of those future financial concerns, Harrier told the Saugatuck City Council during Monday’s meeting that the police budget for fiscal year 2013/2014 should take precedence because it has increased by $63,000.
That brings the annual total police service budget to $588,000, a large chunk of the $1.9 million city budget.
The question that arises is whether the situation calls for a public safety millage, Harrier said.
“It’s really up to what the community wants,” he said.
“It’s our biggest expenditure; police and fire are always going to be 50 percent of your operating budget.”
The City of Douglas manages and operates the Saugatuck-Douglas Police Department and has an agreement in place with Saugatuck to split the costs.
Saugatuck contributes a little more than half of the just over $1 million annual police budget because it makes use of more police protection during the summer tourist season than Douglas.
The department provides two full-time officers for 24-hour coverage, one in each community, and one police chief.
Public safety alone takes up 30 percent of Saugatuck’s fund expenditures while for Douglas it’s higher at 40 percent.
To address the increase, Harrier recommended that the council engage in serious discussions with Douglas about possible ways to minimize the cost, particularly now that Douglas is about to enter into negotiations with the two unions representing the city’s public works and police departments.
The public safety increase was presented to Saugatuck officials by Douglas City Treasurer Robert Drexler at last week’s police committee meeting.
Drexler said his city is soon slated to enter into discussions with the police union.
“We don’t know what we are going to negotiate because we don’t even know what type of health insurance we are going to have yet,” Drexler told the Observer Newspapers Tuesday, referencing the upcoming police bargaining.
Based on 12 operating mills, Saugatuck will have $2,227.89 more to operate the city than last year, noted Harrier.
“There is no more money to save,” said Harrier, referring to the numerous cost-cutting measures the city has implemented.