Twp. board puts Police Operating Millage proposal on August primary ballot

Police Operating Millage (Not Including the Village of Lake Orion) (Proposal language)

Shall the Charter Township of Orion be authorized to levy up to 3.5 mills for a period of six (6) years, starting in December 2020 and ending in December 2025, inclusive, for purposes of continuing to provide police services in the Charter Township of Orion?

In 2016, Township voters approved a millage for the above-stated purposes in the amount of 3.0 mills.  The 2016 millage expired in 2019.  Approval of this proposal would allow the Township to levy up to 3.5 mills (being a continuation of the previously authorized police services operating millage) as a new additional millage to provide police services; including all operations, wages, benefits, housing and capital expenditures.  The millage will be assessed on all taxable property within the Township, except and excluding all taxable property within the Village of Lake Orion.  This proposal would allow a tax limitation increase and an approximate annual levy of $3.50 per $1,000 of the taxable value of all taxable property.  It is estimated that this proposal would result in the authorization to collect $6,135,467.70 in the first year if approved and levied.  A property with a taxable value of $100,000 would be taxed up to $350.00 for the millage.

By Jim Newell

Review Editor

This fall is going to be a busy election cycle, and Orion Township residents are going to be asked to weigh in on a renewal and increase for police services.

During a special workshop meeting on April 6, the Orion Township Board of Trustees unanimously approved putting a Police Operating Millage on the Aug. 4 primary election ballot.

The proposed millage calls for a renewal of 3 mills, which voters approved in 2016 and which expired in 2019, and a new, additional half-mill, according to ballot language.

If approved, the township would levy the millage for six years (Dec. 2020 – Dec. 2025) to support the township’s continued police services with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office.

Voters had originally approved 3 mills for police services in 2012, so the sheriff’s office has not asked for an increase in its operating millage for eight years.

The millage would be assessed on all taxable property within the township only, not on property within the Village of Lake Orion, which has its own police department and millage.

The millage is expected to generate $6,135,467.70 in the first year, if approved, and would be used strictly for police services.

While the millage would run for six years, Lt. Dan Toth, commander of the OCSO Orion Station, says the millage provides for the next decade of police services in Orion Township.

“This millage is the future of police protection in Orion Township, and that’s why we asked for a six-year millage,” Toth said. “That 3.5 mills will be sufficient going forward for the next decade. Even when the Headlee (Override) reduces it.”

“We take taxing our resident very, very seriously. So, we’ve been discussing this for the better part of six months and we’ve seen multiple presentations. We’ve had a couple workshops, we had a board presentation at a regular meeting. So, we take it very seriously,” said Orion Township Supervisor Chris Barnett.

“The fact of the matter is that we have one of the safest communities in the state of Michigan, we’re proud of that and we want to keep it that way,” Barnett said.

The sheriff’s office station in Orion Township has been dipping into its fund balance over the past few years.

“The tax revenues for the police fund have not kept pace with needed police services and growth in Orion Township,” Toth said. “We’ve been using the fund balance to balance the budget.”

In 2007, the Orion Township station had 30 deputies serving, at that time, a population of 31,000 people at the time. In 2020, the township’s estimated population is more than 40,000 residents and the station has a staff of 33 certified deputies.

The Department of Justice recommends one deputy per 1,000 residents.

“We actually had more police officers per 1,000 residents in years past. We actually have less today that we did in 2007-08.

And while the Orion Township station may have been running a budget deficit, it has not had to request money from the township government.

“We have not required or asked for any funding from the (township’s) general fund. We have been able to provide police protection just through our dedicated police fund,” Toth said.

The sheriff’s office in Orion Township gets more than 1,600 calls for service (CFS) per month, an average of 52 calls each day, Toth said. Police calls for service in the township have increased routinely over the past 20 years at between 4-6 percent each year.

“Even with the 3.5 mills, the Orion Township police fund is still one of the most cost-effective in metro Detroit. If you look around at our neighbors, we’re still less than the vast majority of neighbors’ police safety funds,” Toth said

“From my seat, from my perspective, there’s not a lot of fluff when it comes to the police department. We have a contract with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office and we pay a set amount for a lieutenant, a sergeant and a deputy,” Barnett said. “And I think there’s a direct correlation to our property values and having a safe community.”


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