Miami Twp. voters face 5-mill police levy

Miami Twp. voters will decide Nov. 4 whether to increase taxes to fund its police department.

The department – which is financed solely by two tax issues - is seeking approval of Issue 32, a 5-mill, five-year levy to replace a 4-mill levy and add a mill.

The increase would fund capital improvements, salaries and other operational expenses for a department that is working with fewer personnel than authorized while still feeling the impact of a 2012 levy defeat, said Miami Twp. Police Chief Ron Hess.

“We have to have additional funds,” he said. “I have to replace the cars. I have to replace the radios. We have minimum man hours on the street, but I want to go beyond that.”

If Issue 32 is approved next month, the annual taxes paid on a home valued at $100,000 would jump $52.50 to $175, according to the Montgomery County Auditor’s Office.

Passage of the levy would generate $2,799,441 a year for the police department’s budget, which Hess said now stands at $5.6 million. Salaries and benefits account for $4.6 million annually, according to the township.

The 2015 budget will not be calculated until after Nov. 4, said Harry Steger, the township’s finance director.

But approval of the levy would give the department about $498,000 more a year than the $2,301,257 generated now, said Sam Braun, finance manager for the auditor’s office.

The additional funds are needed, in part, because the impact of the 2012 levy failure is still being felt, Hess said. The rejection of that issue came months before Hess joined the township and amid an investigation into misconduct focused on Deputy Police Chief John DiPietro. DiPietro was later fired and a termination agreement with the township followed.

While a 5.2-mill levy passed the following spring, those funds were not available until this year and in 2013 “we were able not to lay anybody off, but we couldn’t buy anything,” Hess said.

Since that time, Hess said he has made cuts in unspecified areas and the department has operated with fewer personnel than authorized.

Meanwhile, the community of 29,000 - home to Austin Landing, the Dayton Mall and a bustling Ohio 741 corridor in between – has seen more than $50 million in commercial development, which trustees expect to bring on a need for more police service. More building is projected with two proposals calling for a total of 484 upscale apartments planned in area along Ohio 741.

Additional funds are needed to buy a mandated digital radio system, replace an aging fleet of marked and unmarked vehicles, replace all of the department’s radios and possibly add personnel, among other items, Hess said.

The department has been operating with fewer personnel than the 41 authorized by the township, with 34 currently on staff, Hess said.

While there has been no recent public discussion about adding officers, trustees have noted the concern. More development at Austin Landing will assuredly increase calls for service there, board of trustees President Andrew Papanek has said.

A more pressing need, Hess said, is the digital radio system, new vehicles – some of which are 12 to 14 years old - and other equipment, he said.

The radio system is mandated by the county and must be online by the first quarter of 2016, Hess said. He estimated the cost to be between $150,000 and $170,000.

Replacing the fleet of 13 vehicles would be done in phases, with three new ones projected in the first year at an estimated cost of $100,000, Hess said. New cruiser equipment is needed because it was bought to fit the Ford Crown Victoria, which is no longer produced. The current equipment will not transfer to new vehicles, he said.

Additionally, the department’s computer software must be replaced because it can no longer be supported as the company no longer exists, Steger said. The cost for that is expected to be $40,000, officials said.

If the levy fails, cuts will need to be made, but Hess said he has not determined what those will be.

“We have to replace the radios, that’s an absolute,” he said.

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