Safety services are a top priority for the city of Monroe in 2017, and residents will see the city take steps to deal with growth that has affected police and fire and may culminate in a tax levy request.
City Manager Bill Brock said in 2017 they are honing in on what to do regarding facilities for police and fire, and part of that discussion could include asking voters for more money to support safety services.
“We’re analyzing our revenue sources. We don’t have large levies to support police and fire,” Brock said. “We’re taking a look at the revenue streams that we’ll need to operate those functions in the years to come. And part of that analysis and part of that question is do we need a dedicated revenue stream that would come from a levy.”
The 2016 budget for fire was $4.3 million and $4 million for police. Assistant City Manager Kacey Waggaman said two current levies for fire brought in just over $1 million, and the police levy totalled $504,475 last year. While the city hasn’t committed to asking voters for more money, Waggaman said a combined safety services levy is probably the way to go.
“I think it’s more about marketing it to community, instead of putting police against fire and then having one of them pass and the other one not,” she said. “I think that would be the biggest benefit because then we know they both either pass or they both fail.”
Brock noted that the fire department has “grown by seven employees” through the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant. The $1 million award covers the cost of hiring seven new firefighters for two years and pays for payroll, benefits, insurance and retirement. Brock said a new levy would help sustain those positions after the grants end.
The city is also in the process of a facilities study to determine whether to build a new public safety building for both police and fire, or separate stations for each.
The city’s police department headquarters was built in 1999 to house 18 police staffers. The building is now home to 40 employees, according to Police Chief Bob Buchanan.