West Bloomfield Township public safety officials made it clear while campaigning for the public safety millage that they did not take lightly what it meant to ask for more taxes in this time of worldwide economic crisis.
After township voters passed the millage renewal Tuesday with 80 percent of the vote, it made clear West Bloomfield residents are satisfied with the level they are paying for the current level of service.
A mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of a property’s taxable value. The owner of property with a taxable value of $100,000 (about $200,000 market value) currently pays $313.78 annually in property taxes for public safety services and will continue to pay that amount for 10 years, from 2012-22, now that the vote has passed.
The public safety millage increase passed, but not as easily as the renewal. Voters approved it with 54 percent of the vote, allowing for the same property owner to pay an additional $285 annually over 11 years.
It’s estimated the renewed millage would collect as much as $9.94 million in its first year to help fund the West Bloomfield Police and Fire departments, while the proposed increase would net $9.01 million.
Renewal, increase necessary to provide current services
Fire Chief Jay Wiseman said in October that although he couldn't specify what would have happened if both the renewal and increase did not pass, that voters should not expect to see a drastic increase in services offered by the fire department. Instead, both the renewal and increase are necessary to keep the level of service currently offered.
Wiseman said that given the placement of the stations, 24 daily staffers are needed in order to adequately deal with one building fire and two medical emergencies happening at the same time.
He pointed out that although those events happening simultaneously occurs with regularity, the Fire Department has worked with 22 staffers regularly since this past summer.
"We're ending up with multiple occurrences where you have to dispatch multiple stations (to a single incident)," he said. "Now, on a medical emergency, I have to send two stations instead of one."
Police Chief Michael Patton agreed with the sentiment, adding that the diversity of services offered by the police department including child safety seat inspection adds to the level of service offered to residents.
"From 18 months ago, we're down 10 officers. Is there anything we're doing operationally that we weren't doing before? No," said Patton, who took over as chief about one year ago. "Ideally, I’d like to add a few more officers to the patrol division, but we’re at the threshold now," he said.
Patton said that although West Bloomfield's crime rate remains low — decreasing this year from last year and the year before that, according to quarterly reports — additional staff is required in order to provide for various services offered beyond the patrol division.
For more information about the vote including action-specific reaction from the Police Chief, Fire Chief, and Township Board, click here.