By Jim Newell
Review Staff Writer
Village residents will vote for a continuation of the Lake Orion Police Department’s existing millage when they go to the polls during the Nov. 8 general election.
And village officials and Police Chief Jerry Narsh want residents to know that the current proposed millage is not an addition to the millage voters approved in August, and they will not see their taxes rise because of the proposed millage.
The police millage approved in the Aug. 2 primary covers the 2016 fiscal year, ending June 30, 2017. The current millage proposal would begin in July 2017 and run through June 2018, and provide funding annually thereafter.
The millage is a tax levy of 2.9885 mills annually. In the first year, the millage would generate approximately $354,000. The police department’s current operating cost is $801,000, with the difference covered from the village’s general fund and other revenues.
“In the history of this millage it’s never not been renewed,” Narsh said. “It’s the same millage rate that the people approved four years ago, there’s not a penny increase.
“The only difference is, now the village will collect it, not the township,” Narsh said. “Everyone in this community has passed the police millage for the past 26 years. There’s no reason not to this year. All that’s changed is who you pay.”
Narsh wants to reassure residents that the proposed millage “is not a double-dip.”
“It’s a trust factor and I understand that ballot language is confusing,” Narsh said.
The millage is a “locked-in, fixed rate,” Narsh said, adding that he wants to assure residents’ that if they approve this millage they would not then see an increase on their tax bills over time.
“The only way to get an increase would be to go back to voters for approval,” he said.
The ballot question is only for village residents, who will vote in Precinct 2 located at Blanche Sims Elementary. The proposal will not appear on township residents’ ballots.
Any village resident who has concerns and wants to discuss the millage can contact Narsh at 248-693-8323.
If the millage fails, the village would have another chance on the May 2017 ballot to get the millage approved. If that ballot request were to fail, the village would have to cover police costs from other funds. Village Manager Darwin McClary could not be reached for comment.
“This is a vote for police services,” Narsh said. “I’m very proud of my staff and the community policing we do.”
Narsh said his goal for the department is connecting and communicating with the community so the LOPD can better understand how to serve residents.
“My passion has been to develop a department that builds bridges in every communication, and what travels across that bridge is trust – and the understanding of what their needs are so we can provide better protection,” Narsh said. “That’s our product, and it’s trust.”
The township had collected the LOPD millage when it collected taxes and then returned that money to the village.
A state statute from 1982 stated that the township and village were required to collect the police millages together. However, the township conducted its own research and discovered that the law was no longer binding or being enforced, Narsh said.
The township served the village notice that it should collect the LOPD millage, but agreed to collect the millage one more time so that the village could get its own ballot proposal before voters.
The LOPD has four full time police officers, 13 part-time officers and 20 volunteer reserve officers. All the officers meet the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES), and the part-time and reserve officers train with the full time officers.
“It’s very a very efficient way to train,” Narsh said. “We’ve struck a perfect balance between the full time officers and the reserves.
“Not only do we care, but we want to understand, we want to listen, and out of that we know how to better police our community,” Narsh said.
By Jim Newell