Aurora olice levy fails; health, road/bridge issues pass

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by KEN LAHMERS | EDITOR

For several years, the Aurora Fire Department has received voter-approved tax revenue to enhance its operations. The police department wanted to do likewise, but that attempt failed May 7.

Voters rejected Issue 3, a 1.2-mill safety levy that would have generated about $689,000 annually. The final but unofficial vote count from the Portage County Board of Elections was 667 against and 361 for.

"It's very disappointing," said Mayor James Fisher. "But the voters have given an indication of how they want to spend their money. The need for enhanced safety forces is still there, and I'll work with Council to see how we can support our police department financially.

"We'll have to make some tough financial choices. If the vote would have been closer, we'd have some other options. Safety is still a key priority."

Police Chief Seth Riewaldt said officials tried to make a point that additional officers are needed, and he hopes Council and the mayor will do what they can to address the police department manpower situation.

"It's tough to get people to raise their taxes right now," he concluded.

The levy would have cost the owner of a $100,000 property an additional $37 per year.

The police levy would have supported the hiring of two additional patrol officers, one detective and an additional school resource officer, as well as "the technology support that improves the effectiveness of our officers," according to Fisher.

The new funding also would have enabled police to reinstate a community enhancement team, which allows certain officers to focus on more serious crimes and incidents.

According to Riewaldt, the city has 26 full-time officers, which amounts to 1.6 officers per 1,000 residents -- 10 percent fewer than in 2000 and 14 percent fewer than in 2007. From 2007-09, the city had 1.86 officers per 1,000 residents.

CITY OFFICIALS claim the national average is 2.2 and the regional average is 2.1.

The voter turnout was very low, with just 1,028 votes cast on the Aurora levy. A mayoral or presidential election usually sees more than four times that many voters go to Aurora's polls. Portage County's turnout of 8.87 percent was the lowest in many officials' recent memory.

In other election results, Portage County voters approved additional revenue for the health district, which serves all of the county except Kent and Ravenna, for the first time since 1955. A 0.4-mill replacement levy for the Portage County Health District (Issue 1) passed 3,523 to 2,778.

The current health levy brings in $200,000. The new levy will provide $800,000 more. Residents owning homes valued at $100,000 will pay about $10 per year in additional taxes or about $12.60 overall.

The additional revenue will enable the district to restore services that have gone by the wayside because of budget cuts, increase staffing and initiate new programs for public health. It also ensures that the district will be fully accredited by 2018, the deadline set in the new state budget.

In Reminderville, a 3-mill replacement levy (Issue 2) for roads and bridges passed 36 to 27. The levy will replace a 3-mill issue that expired Dec. 31, 2012, and will generate about $267,000 per year for the next five years. It will cost the owner of a property valued at $100,000 about $92 per year.

Reminderville Fiscal Officer Deborah Wordell said the levy is part of the village's approximately $1.2 million road maintenance fund, which also includes grant money from the Ohio Public Works Commission and permissive tax funds.

Email: klahmers@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4189

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