Both Hillsdale City Council and Hillsdale County Commissioners are looking ahead to the next decade to budget well for public safety departments’ needs.
The City of Hillsdale Public Safety Commission presented a proposal of budget needs at Monday’s city council meeting, announcing the City’s fire and police departments throughout the next ten year, with budget projections totalling just under $1.5 million.
“These are not wants, these are actual needs for expenditures,” Police and Fire Chief Scott Hephner said at the council meeting. “They cover equipment, motor equipment, and building costs.”
According to Hephner, research went into the proposal to ensure that equipment is not being run to “catastrophic failure” by replacing the equipment at the appropriate time, he said.
“We’re replacing our equipment in a timely manner so that we don’t have to have an eight month period waiting for equipment,” Hephner said.
He hopes this will prevent him from standing before Council with immediate needs due to lack of funds in the future.
“We didn’t put any wants in here,” Hephner said. “We have to have a plan in place about these expenditures. I’ve had to come up here many times over the last year and a half and stand here saying, ‘I need a bunch of money, and we have to have this’.”
Finding an appropriate plan to fund the budget proposal was at the forefront of the public safety commission’s discussion, according to Hephner. He said they came up with three routes for gathering funds: finding money in an existing budget, reallocating funds from existing monies, and, finally, letting the public vote on a potential millage.
“We decided to recommend a fire safety equipment millage,” Ward 4 Councilman Ray Briner said. “Ultimately we thought that was the best route to go, as we know that we are bare bones as far as staffing goes and cutting from other departments isn’t likely. That’s where we stand on it.”
Council was unable to come to a conclusion about the potential millage because proper language was not prepared, so discussion will continue at the Feb. 4 council meeting.
City Manager David Mackie said that if the voters approved of one mill, it would generate about $127,000 to $128,000 a year, coming to about $1.25 million at the end of the decade.
“This is close to what we need,” Mackie said.
The City would work to both research and apply for grants to supply those additional funds.
“If the voters say they don’t want a public safety millage, then we would have to go back through the budget and bring ideas forward,” Mackie said.
Mackie said that in his discussions with the city attorney, he believes that the issue can be placed on the May ballot for voters, with enough time to get answers before the budget is completed for the fiscal year.
On Tuesday morning, Hillsdale County Board of Commissioners discussed a Hillsdale County law enforcement enhancement millage proposal for additional road patrol deputies at the sheriff’s department. The plan intends to secure 24/7 road patrol. After discussion, the board of commissioners approved of the proposal, asking for ¾ of a mill for five years. The proposal will appear on the May ballot.