Police chief asks for sales tax increase to hire officers
MONROE - Voters may see a sales tax increase on the August ballot to supplement what Police Chief Tim Quenzer said is a “bare bones” budget for the Police Department.
At the Jan. 22 City Council meeting, Quenzer proposed increasing the sales tax by two-tenths of 1 percent. Although no action was taken by the council, Mayor Robert Zimmerman voiced his support for the increase.
“I’m not normally a tax increase kind of guy, but I’d like to go to the public and ask them if this is a priority they would like to support,” Zimmerman said.
The additional revenue collected from the tax increase would total about $600,000 per year, police spokeswoman Debbie Willis said. The department’s budget in 2008 was $6.2 million and this year it is $5.2 million.
Quenzer said a sales tax increase is more appropriate than a property tax increase because about 75 percent of the calls police respond to come from non-homeowners.
The additional revenue would pay for the rehiring of officers lost over the years, new equipment and badly needed new patrol cars, Willis said.
The Police Department is funded by the city’s general fund and has experienced several reductions over the past few years.
“We’re already operating at bare bones and with minimal staffing,” Quenzer said.
The chief said the department started 2013 with the resignation of one of its officers, and two more officers have given him notice that they may be leaving.
The department is down six officers since 2008, when the department had 37. The department currently employs 31 officers.
Working with fewer officers, Quenzer said, reduces call response times and puts a financial burden on the department because officers are expensive to replace.
New hire uniforms, first year salary and benefits, training a new officer and putting them through the police academy costs the department about $100,000 per officer, Willis said.
After pay increases, officers could make around $90,000 a year with benefits, Willis said.
Zimmerman said he would be willing to support the tax should it be approved for the ballot. The City Council must vote to place the measure on the ballot.
“The chief and the department need to be commended for responding to the needs of the community even though our staffing level on the street is lower than it was in 2008 or 2009,” Zimmerman said. “It’s a testament to the capable men and women we have in the department and the job they do. I think that the chief and I, our desires for public safety meet the needs of our community to prevent things before they happen.”
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