Voters approved each of the six fire tax levies in Tuesday’s election throughout various Butler County communities while rejecting the county’s sole police levy — a New Miami 5-mill initiative to completely overhaul and double the department’s funding.
This was the second year in a row that New Miami voters rejected the 5-mill additional police levy. As it stands, the department is funded through an in-place levy that produces anywhere from $84,000 to $87,000 in yearly revenue, which is the department’s sole source of funding.
New Miami Mayor Stephanie Chandler and Police Chief Chip Webb both said they were disappointed with the night’s results.
“I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily surprised,” Chandler said of the levy’s 45% to 55% rejection. “I’m disappointed, yeah. Not necessarily surprised, no.”
The initiative came closer to passing this year, as it was rejected with only 40.6% approval last Nov. Now, though, after two resounding rejections, the village has no immediate plans to put the initiative back on the ballot next year, though that might change once the village runs its numbers. Officials said the lack of additional funding will make operations tougher.
“Right now, we’re not quite sure what the lasting effect will be,” Webb said, adding that the village will have a finance meeting late Wednesday afternoon to set department budgets. “That will be the first stages of our trying to trudge through and see what services we can still provide.”
Passage of the levy would have brought an additional $114,456 for the village’s police department, while costing the owner of a $100,000 home about $175 a year.
Currently, the department uses its $85,000 budget to employ one full-time officer. The only other paid officer is Chief Webb himself, who is only a part-time employee of the department. Three auxiliary officers round out the New Miami police force.
Finances got tighter when the Butler County Sheriff’s Department started charging dispatch fees whenever county law enforcement was called to New Miami. This year, Chandler said dispatch fees will take up over half of the department’s budget.
“Our dispatch fees from 2022 were $47,000,” Chandler said. “On an $87,000 budget, it’s kind of hard to run a department, isn’t it?”
Chandler said she thinks voters aren’t considering those fees, or the other everyday costs that the police department incurs.
“I think the general public doesn’t necessarily know what all goes into running any department, but, if you think of your own home… you’ve got utility bills, gas, insurance,” Chandler said. “If we continue at the rate we are, we’re not gonna have money, period, to operate a police department.”
The Journal-News previously reported that the New Miami Police Department’s projected expenses for 2023 sat around $199,000, and that the department has had to tap into the village’s general fund in order to make ends meet.
On the same ballot, New Miami voters passed the village’s 2-mill fire levy renewal with a 68.9% to 32.1% split.
Voters also passed the additional 3-mill fire levy in Madison Twp., which will essentially double the funding to a department that found itself in a similar position to New Miami’s police.
Kent Hall, the fire chief for Madison Twp., said the new funding was necessary due to growing expenditures and stagnant income.
“I was on a path to, within the next couple years, to basically run out of money,” Hall said. “When you have so many expenditures each month, each year, and you’ve only got a set amount of money coming in, eventually, they’re going to meet — if you have no other source of income coming in.”
Hall said the new 3-mill levy will “basically stop the downward spiral of the budget.”
Madison Twp. Fire Department’s current operating budget is $850,000 a year, funded through an existing levy. Tuesday’s additional levy passage will double the department’s income.
“My budget right now is $850,000 a year, and I have to cover fire and EMS service out of that,” Hall said. “My personnel cost, just for payroll, is $600,000, so that’s leaving me with a small amount of money to buy other vehicles, to pay bills for heating, electric, and to keep up with the three stations I have.”
Madison Twp. voters passed the levy with 55.2% support. With the additional funding, Hall believes he can start to plan on replacing aging vehicles, and eventually bringing in additional, necessary staff.
In Reily Twp., voters passed a 4.5-mill levy with 74.1% support. The Journal-News previously reported that the levy would be labeled as an additional levy on the ballot, but that it would effectively take the place of an expiring, lower-mill levy, according to Reily Twp. Trustee Nick Schwab.
In College Corner, voters passed a 1.8-mill fire renewal levy with 73.9% support.
In Millville Village, voters passed a 3-mill fire renewal levy with 76.8% support.
And, in Morgan Twp., voters passed a 3-mill EMS renewal levy with 64.5% support.