Voters to see police, health levies on May's ballot

Published:

FROM STAFF REPORTS

Aurora -- Two tax levies for local residents to decide will appear on the May 7 primary election ballot. The filing deadline for levies to be placed on the ballot was Feb. 6.

The city of Aurora is seeking voter approval of a 1.2-mill new levy for the police department, which would boost the number of officers on duty and restore the community enhancement team.

The Portage County Health District will have a 0.4-mill, five-year replacement levy on the ballot. It will be voted on by residents throughout the county except for those in Kent and Ravenna, which have their own health departments.

The city's proposed five-year levy would generate $650,000 to $700,000 per year, and would cost the owner of a $100,000 property about $33 to $36 more a year.

It would enable the hiring of two patrol officers, one detective and one school resource officer, plus "the technology support that improves the effectiveness of our officers," according to Mayor James Fisher.

The police department currently has 26 full-time officers, and Police Chief Seth Riewaldt said the department considers itself "very lean" in terms of personnel.

The community enhancement team, when it operated a few years ago, allowed certain officers not to respond to less serious calls and permitted them to focus on specific areas of law enforcement.

The team was derailed when two retiring officers were not replaced, according to Riewaldt.

Meanwhile, the current health district levy, which has been in place since 1955, brings in about $200,000 a year, and the replacement levy would bring in slightly more than $1 million a year. The department has a $2 million annual budget.

Portage County Health Commissioner DuWayne Porter said the board of health believes it was essential to bring the original levy up to modern property values.

If the replacement fails, the district might have to go for a new levy in addition to renewing the existing one, which could tax residents more.

"We'll have to go for a renewal in November if we don't get the replacement this time because we absolutely cannot live without the current levy," Porter said.

Taxpayers in the county pay about $3 per $100,000 of assessed value for the current levy. The new levy would cost about $10 per $100,000 of assessed value.

Porter said the new revenues would allow the department to "replace the services that were lost and give us the ability to get accreditation through the state."

After years of failing to pass a new or replacement levy, the district came nearer to success than ever in November 2012 when another 0.4-mill, five-year replacement was defeated by 730 votes.

Want to leave your comments?

Sign in or Register to comment.