WEST ALEXANDRIA — Village Council once again debated placing a levy on the ballot to help fund the police department during a special meeting held Tuesday, Jan. 26.
Police Chief Tony Gasper previously addressed council about his department’s proposed 2021 budget during a pair of special meetings held in November. The planned budget at that time of $220,000 would be a drastic reduction from the department’s 2020 budget of $272,000.
Gasper stated that such a decrease would compromise his ability to provide the village with 24/7 police coverage.
Councilman Zach Shafer first suggested placing a levy on the ballot to increase police department funding in November, while Councilman Dan Utsinger asked Gasper to come up with figures on a budget that would allow him to provide close to 24/7 coverage at that time.
According to Utsinger, a four-mill levy proposed during last week’s special meeting would increase police department funding to $310,000, a figure he seemed to think was somewhat conservative.
“In a perfect world, $325,000 would be great,” Utsinger said.
Shafer, meanwhile, stated that the $310,000 budget would allow Chief Gasper to “adequately staff the police department and ensure 24/7 coverage.”
Council president Ashley Myers suggested reducing the levy to two mills, which would bring the department’s budget to around $280,000, but Shafer indicated he’d rather take in more money than risk falling short.
“I’d rather have a little bit more, and be more conservative with our spending, than have to do another levy in a year or two,” Shafer said.
“We want to pass a levy that will fully fund the police department, and still allow us to run as tight a ship as possible,” he said.
Gasper also stated that the $280,000 figure would fall a bit short.
“I can’t guarantee full-time coverage [with that budget], but we’d do the best we can,” Gasper said.
Myers also suggested putting a police levy on the ballot in August rather than mid-year.
“I feel like everything is moving too fast,” she said. Council member Holly Robbins expressed similar sentiments.
Utsinger suggested moving more quickly, however.
“Number one, [the levy] lets the public decide,” Utsinger said. “Number two, it’s totally transparent. You know what you’re voting for.”
Council ultimately voted 4-2 to allow the village to levy a tax outside the 10-mill limitation, as well as to waive the customary second and third readings and allow it to be put into effect immediately, with Myers and Robbins voting against. Council also voted unanimously to approve the adjusted 2021 budget.
The next West Alexandria Village Council meeting will be held Monday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. in the Fire & EMS Bldg located at 8 Marty Ln.
Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook @mproperenglish