CAMDEN — The Village of Camden has two tax renewals which will appear on the special election ballot on Tuesday, Aug. 8.
Issue 1 will fund the village itself, and Issue 2 will fund the police department. Voting yes on these issues will see no increase in taxes, as they are renewals, according to village officials.
The last time village voters approved these renewals was five years ago. The current renewals were on the November 2016 ballot. Both issues failed.
Now, the voters have another chance to vote either yes or no.
According to village council member Kelly Doran, the state has cut funding to communities by 50 percent or more. Camden receives half as much as it once did from the state. Those cuts have severely effected Camden’s general fund, which helps pay for grants and improvements to the village.
The general fund receives tax revenue of approximately $284,000 per year, but just to fund the police department for 2017 it cost $263,000 — which leaves only roughly $20,000 left over to fund the village operations.
The two issues will only cost the residents of Camden 26 cents per day — money that they are already paying.
“Issue two only generates less than $100,000 for the police department,” Doran added. “The levy funds much less than half of the fiscal needs of the department. The remainder has to be made up by the general fund. The other $163,000 is funded right out of the general fund.
“Now the general fund levy (issue one) only generates around $75,000. We’re still about $100,000 short to operate the police department from their levy, from the general fund levy, and the rest has to come out of tax revenue to subsidize the police department,” he added.
“The police department is really funded minimally. There’s no meat on the bone here. They do a lot of their own routine maintenance, they get donations for vehicles — it’s amazing the shoestring they operate on.”
Camden’s police department has three full-time officers, two part-time officers, and five volunteer officers.
“The volunteers almost outweigh the paid employees. You have people giving their time away and they’re still short on money,” Doran said. “Just because we have this tax in place now, that in no way can replace these levies. The police department would use all of the general fund tax money. We have to have these levies. Maybe in a few more years when our income tax tops out, we might be able to do away with the issue one, that’s what we’re hoping, but until we top out we’re going to need this crutch to get over that bridge. We have to maintain the police levy.”
According to Camden Police Chief Matt Spurlock, the Village of Camden has received more calls than any other village police department in the county. They are only second to the City of Eaton.
“The call volume is going to continue to go up,” Spurlock added. “No matter how much time we put into the crime, it’s not going away. We need a way to battle that or it’s never going to disappear.”
If these levies do not pass, Camden Council has already taken steps to put them on the ballot in November. If they do not pass in November, the next time they could go on the ballot is May of 2018. That would mean that the village and the police department could not get funding until 2019 and would have to make it on the tax revenue the receives.
Doran said the police department would be down to one officer by January.
“That’s basically 40 hours a week of police protection,” Spurlock added. “If you take out court time. Even with one guy there would still be training time. That would take our one officer off the streets. If they’re working nights and something happens during the day, or vice versa, nobody would be able to take care of it. The sheriff’s department would have to respond.”
As for the village, they also run on the bare minimum. Council receives no pay for their time — they all operate as volunteers, trying to improve the village to the best of their ability, but according to Doran, they need money to do that.
“If we lose these levies, the police and general fund levy, that’s going to pull $170,000, almost $200,000 out of our ability to finance the department and street repair,” Doran added. “The general fund is going to be over taxed and over burdened to do that. Last year we had to put an $80,000 match to qualify for the grant on Second Street. If we lose these levies, you’re not going to have the money to participate in other things that are meaningful to this village.
“For years we weren’t able to participate in many grants, because there wasn’t available money. Now we’re to the point where we can participate in some meaningful programs. People need to understand what we’re trying to do here. We’re not just trying to tax people, just to go and burn it and spend it as quickly as we can. We’re trying to put this village on a permanent path to an upwards trajectory.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH