Monroe residents may see tax increase for safety services

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Monroe residents may see tax increase for safety services

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In this 2016 photo, Monroe Senior Dispatcher Dan Rose, along with dispatchers in training Amanda Pike and Kennedy Bowman, work in the communications room at the Monroe police department. A facilities study recently looked at Monroe’s public safety facilities and what new facilities options they may have. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

Monroe — the area’s fastest growing city, according to the U.S. Census — needs more money for safety services, officials said.

Those growing pains will result in voters considering a property or income tax increase on the Nov. 7 ballot.

City Council recently heard a presentation from City Manager William Brock about the need to raise additional revenues for safety services to keep up with the needs of the growing city.

“We need about $1.59 million to keep up for growth,” he said.

Brock said more police officers and firefighters must be hired to meet increased calls for service. The city also needs more space to house its police department, he said.

The current police facility was built in 1999 to accommodate 18 police employees. The building is now home to 40 employees, according to Police Chief Bob Buchanan, and has outgrown its space on the lower level of the Monroe City Building.

A facilities study looked at a new municipal administration building, a new police facility, renovating the current city building for use as an administrative center or police facility, and a new fire station off Ohio 63 east of I-75.

Brock said the need appeared for a new police facility and that it was more suitable to expand the current city building for administrative functions. He also said the new fire station was not a near term priority.

Also, while Monroe does not patrol Lemon Twp. any more, the calls for service have increased around the Interstate 75/Ohio 63 interchange where a large portion of restaurants, the Cincinnati Premium Outlet Mall and the Miami Valley Gaming racino are located, he said.

Last year, the city spent $6 million — or about 40 percent of the general fund — for safety services expenditures. This is in addition to a pair of 2.5-mill fire levies that generate about $1.05 million a year, and about $504,000 generated from the police levy.

Councilman Dan Clark said he thought it was important for people to know what these costs are for public safety services. He also thought if additional revenues could be found, it would allow the city to use those general fund revenues for other city needs and projects.

Brock said future budgetary projections do not take into account the following items:

  • The need for a new police facility, with an estimated cost of $6.9 million to $7.8 million as well as possible land costs and bond costs of between $504,000 and $574,000.
  • The city will have to pick up the costs of seven firefighters that have been hired through a federal grant that expires at the end of 2018. Starting in 2019, those costs will be more than $600,000 a year.
  • Growth in police staffing as wages and benefits will cost the city $110,000 per officer.

In his presentation, Brock outlined several options for council to consider as dedicated ways to increase revenue for public safety costs. Those include:

  • A new property tax levy that would generate about $318,000 per mill; or a replacement levy of 5-mills that would generate about $1.59 million a year.
  • Adding an additional 0.25 percent to the city’s current 1.5 percent income tax rate that would generate about $1.6 million and would grow as the city continues to develop.
  • Reducing the reciprocity or “forgiveness” of income taxes paid to another jurisdiction where a resident works by 1 percent that would generate about $1.65 million.

Brock said council will have until July place a tax request on the November ballot. He said council will need to decide what they choose to fund — a new police facility, fire staffing and additional police staffing; and whether to seek an income or property tax increase and how much.

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