Mayor proposes 1.2-mill police levy for Aurora

by MIKE LESKO | REPORTER Published:

Aurora -- Mayor James Fisher is proposing a 1.2-mill safety levy to "support the current and future needs of the police department" that would appear on the May primary election ballot.

The issue was discussed Jan. 14 at City Council's committee of the whole meeting.

Fisher said the levy would generate $650,000 to $700,000 annually, and would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $33 to $36 a year.

The levy, which is for five years, must be approved by Council by Feb. 6 to go on the May ballot.

It would support the hiring of two additional patrol officers, one detective and an additional school resource officer, Fisher said, as well as "the technology support that improves the effectiveness of our officers."

If approved, the ratio of law enforcement officers per 1,000 residents would be 1.87. The city has 26 full-time officers, Police Chief Seth Riewaldt said.

"Satisfying the safety expectations of the residents is a key priority," Fisher said. "One of the city's many responsibilities to the residents focused on raising families is to provide safety."

Fisher said in 2000, Aurora had 24 law enforcement officers, or 1.77 officers for every 1,000 residents. Now it has 1.6 for every 1,000.

"Population growth and new and diverse demands on our law enforcement [including one current school resource officer] is outpacing the city's ability to staff this key safety department at the needed level," Fisher said.

The city implemented a "best practices" police policy in 2006-07. "The creation of the 'community enhancement team' [whose responsibility was to focus on citizens' complaints and create an emphasis on high crime and traffic accident areas] resulted in paying huge safety dividends for the city and its residents," Fisher said.

THE MAYOR said by the end of 2009, traffic crashes resulting in injuries were down 44 percent and a variety of serious types of crimes were at a three-year low. The officer count per 1,000 residents was 1.86, he said, and "this number is the foundation for addressing the law enforcement needs of the city going forward," he said.

The city's target of 1.87 officers per 1,000 residents has been compared to national averages of 2.2 and 2.1, he said. Surrounding cities weight in at 1.75 in Twinsburg, 1.88 in Solon and 1.80 in Streetsboro.

Since the end of the "best practices" years, Fisher said theft crimes have increased annually.

"The increase has created additional and diverse workloads for our officers, forcing them to reallocate patrol coverage and followup investigative work," he said.

Fisher said the challenge for the city is "how to establish a sustainable revenue stream to help fund the current and ongoing needs of this key safety department.

"Currently, the general fund is the financial resource that supports that need. It does not have the strength to support the needs of the department.

"The city must create a supplemental source of funding that ensures that the safety of Aurora will not be compromised," he added.

Fisher said the city's fire department currently receives financial support from the general fund and from a levy.

"This financial funding model works for the fire department and is the recommendation for the police department to ensure that we insulate our police department -- as we currently do with our fire department -- from any future economic issues," he said.

Email: mlesko@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4187

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