Voters overwhelming support public safety levy

More than 2,600 Middletown voters in Butler and Warren counties came out to vote in Tuesday’s special election. It passed 76.5 percent, or 2,001 votes, to 23.5 percent, or 616 votes, according to unofficial votes from the Butler and Warren county boards of elections.

Councilman A.J. Smith, who chaired the council’s public safety subcommittee and worked on the levy campaign, said the community, business leaders, police and fire unions, and city staff came together “to come behind one common cause for one common goal and that’s to pass this continuing levy for the safety of our citizens.”

“We’re in August so budget discussions will begin very soon and I think conversations about the budget discussions about safety decisions will be much easier than if we didn’t pass this levy,” he said.

The levy renewal will maintain the 0.25 percent income tax that supplements the police and fire department budgets by a projected $2.9 million.The renewal also made the levy continuing.

A person who makes $50,000 a year currently pays $125 a year, or less than $10.50 a month. That will not change.

The public safety levy was first approved in November 2007 with 58.5 percent of the vote. The larger margin of the unofficial victory shows “people have recognized the impact of public safety,” said Mayor Larry Mulligan.

“We’ve been honest with people with some of the cuts we’ve had to make with some of the cuts in state funding,” he said. “People are aware and satisfied with the direction with public safety.”

City Council made $3.7 million in cuts last year in order to balance the 2012 budget, with the majority of the funding being cut from the police and fire departments. That resulted in 16 police and fire positions being eliminated. While the majority were vacant openings, five firefighters lost their jobs.

The unofficial victory means there “will be $1 million for the city of Middletown, and that will pay for six firefighters,” said said Middletown Division of Fire Chief Steve Botts.

The city now can accept the $1 million Staffing fore Adequate Fire and EMS Response (SAFER) Grant. Botts said the city had to wait before it could accept the federal grant. A levy failure would mean significant cuts in fire and police personnel, but if the city accepted the federal fire grant they could not cut any personnel for two years.

Botts said the grant will pay for six firefighters for two years.