Hillsdale City Council voted 5 – 2 Monday night to put a fire and public safety millage proposal on the May 7th ballot. The millage, which was proposed by Hillsdale’s public safety commission, will raise revenue of up to $127,521 annually for replacement equipment for the fire and police departments.
Mayor Adam Stockford and Councilman Matthew Bell voted against putting the millage on the ballot, while Councilmembers Ray Briner, Bill Zeiser, Will Morrisey, Greg Stuchell, and Bruce Sharp voted to put the proposal on the ballot.
“We do have to provide services and safety equipment for our people so they can do their job correctly,” Sharp said at the meeting. “This is a long-term plan and we have got to sell it to the voters, and we have got to give them the facts, and they have to decide.”
A millage rate is the amount of dollars in property tax paid per $1,000 in taxable value. The Council’s proposal on the ballot will be for an additional mill, or an additional dollar in taxes per $1,000 in taxable property.
The Police and Fire Chief Scott Hephner said the amount of money needed for replacing equipment was just shy of 1.5 million dollars.
“The only thing on this list is gear that is going to expire that is going to affect the safety of our firefighters and the equipment that is on borrowed time that is limping along and that we have to have,” Hephner said.
Stockford said that he would vote against putting the millage on the ballot due to promises he made to the voters regarding taxes. Stockford also said he would vote for the proposal if it were on the ballot in May.
Bell provided the most vocal opposition to putting the millage on the ballot, and he said there will always be more projects that need funding.
“The people elected us to do a job, not just to pass things back to them,” Bell said.
Zeiser voted for putting the proposal on the ballot, but said that he believed the millage would not be passed by the voters.
“I really believe because we have gone to the well a number of times as a county and as a city, and we really do need to be prepared if this fails,” Zeiser said.
Last Tuesday, the Hillsdale County Board of Commissioners approved a proposal that would ask voters for a 3/4 of a mill for five years to finance 24/7 road patrols. That millage proposal will also appear on the May ballot.