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City Hall COLLEGIAN | (Photo: Wiki­media)

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.

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Josephine von Dohlen
Josephine von Dohlen is a senior from Minneapolis, Minnesota who appreciates the communicative power of journalism and the community that it fosters. A graduate of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C., she has previously interned with Catholic News Service and the Santa Barbara News-Press. At Hillsdale, she is a member of the Dow Journalism Program and majors in American Studies. Email: jvondohlen@hillsdale.edu