SHAWNEE TOWNSHIP — On May 4, voters will consider a 3.5 mill five-year levy for police services in Shawnee Township.
A renewal levy was supposed to be on the ballot last November but a Shawnee Township administrative snafu kept it from happening.
“We didn’t find out about it until the sample ballot came out and we were not on it,” said Michael Keith, Shawnee Township Police Chief.
Voters will be asked to renew 2 mills that expired at the end of 2020 and an additional 1.5 mills.
“The whole three and a half mills, versus two from the one that expired and a mill and a half would cost the average homeowner of a $100,000 property, $10.21 a month or $122.50 a year,” Keith said.
Dealing with the shortfall in 2021 has been a challenge, according to Keith.
“Extremely difficult. Fifty-eight percent of our revenue is from that levy that we had on there so this year we’re 58% down,” Keith said.
Keith admits things have been tight and they’ve tried to save money where they can but if the levy doesn’t pass there will be cuts.
“Services will be cut. Personnel will be cut,” Keith said.
Right now the department has 13 full-time officers and two part-timers.
Sergeant Rob Kohli is concerned for his fellow officers.
“I spent 20 years serving this community. When we learned that we were going to lose as much money as we’re going to lose, obviously my job and the jobs of my co-workers were at stake. Right now it looks like at least half the department would be eliminated.
“The way the department will look in the future, going forward, it will take us years to recover, even with the passage of this levy and if it did not pass, services would be strained, if not cut,” Kohli said.
“Some of the things we provide, such as the school resource officers, house checks for vacations, unlocks, all that stuff would probably have to go away. Our response times would likely go down for the more emergent calls, meaning if I would need two officers to respond to something, we would have to wait until we could have adequate support to respond to that so they could delay our response times.”
Shawnee Township has their dispatchers and that conceivably could be cut, but the police and fire departments would still have to come up with money to pay Allen County for dispatch services if that happens. Another problem is the radios that Shawnee Township uses.
“The MARCS radios we have are at ‘end of life’ and they don’t service them (anymore). One went down the other day. We’ve just put a blank space in the car because we don’t have the money to replace it. It’s kind of a sad state of affairs,” Kohli said.
Kim Smith, a resident of Shawnee Township, is urging trustees to take a closer look at the possible cost savings of switching to Allen County for dispatch services. Smith reiterated though that she is not against the passage of the levy.
“We residents voted these trustees into office hoping they would be fiscally responsible with our money. This failure to put the renewal levy on this past fall and touted as a mistake has shown that fiscal responsibility is not the name of the game. I think a question that could be raised is why are we the only township in the area that is not aligned with Allen County Dispatch?” Smith said.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.