Voters asked if they'll pay more for police
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Are Lawrence Township residents willing to pay more for police protection?
The supervisors voted Tuesday to put a referendum question on the November general election ballot asking residents if they are in favor of a 6-mill property tax increase to establish a dedicated public safety fund.
The property tax levy in Lawrence Township is 18 mills, meaning the owner of a $50,000 property pays about $225 in taxes to the township. A 6-mill increase will increase that by $75. Residents also pay taxes to the Clearfield Area School District and to Clearfield County.
"The supervisors are limited with funds," Supervisor Glenn Johnston said. The costs of fuel and wages are increasing and the supervisors have done everything they can to control costs and to preserve a functioning police force, he said.
"We had negotiations with the police department (union) without concessions from them," Johnston said. "We suggested a regionalized police force with our neighboring communities and they did not respond. That is now sitting dormant.
"As a result of limited funds, the department had dwindled from 14 officers to eight through attrition. We have had no layoffs," Johnston said. "We used to have 14 officers, some part-time, the rest full-time and we had two officers in the schools. Once the grant ended, no one in any of the other communities offered to help, even though the students are from all over, but the school is located in the township. The school board did not help us and that program ended."
Johnston made the motion to put the referendum on the ballot.
"We do not wish to abolish the police department but our hands are tied," Johnston said.
"I know people want more protection," Supervisor Ed Brown said. "I feel we need more protection but the question is how do we pay for it? I don't feel right making this decision so we will let the voters decide."
"We're up against the wall here and our only choice is to put it on the ballot," Supervisor Bill Lawhead said.
Johnston pointed out that even if the referendum passes, only 3 of the 6 mills can be used for the officers' wages.
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Reported by Kimberly Finnigan, staff writer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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