By Meg Peters
After much pleading Monday night, there is still no guarantee that Orion Township will levy the Village of Lake Orion’s police millage for the next four years.
But, they could do it for one.
Village Manager Darwin McClary agreed that the village council would review the township’s proposed one year agreement and revised police millage before the township makes its final decision at the next board meeting on May 2. The final decision boils down to whether or not the township will levy the village’s police millage for one more year to give the village time to come up with their own police millage.
If approved on May 2, the ballot language must be submitted to the county by May 10 to be on the ballot in August.
Under the past Police Millage Agreement, a 24-year-relationship, Orion Township would levy, collect, and distribute the village’s portion of the police millage, and send the village one check.
Trustee Neal Porter made the motion for the one year police services contact, which was approved 6-0 on Monday night. Township Supervisor Chris Barnett was absent with notice. After one year, the contract would expire, and village would be expected to take over its own levying.
The new ballot language would replace the township’s previously approved ballot language, which excludes the village from the township’s collection process of the 2.9885 police millage. Language has already been submitted to the Oakland County Clerk’s Office.
“This is no guarantee,” Trustee John Steimel said, of whether it will be on the ballot.
Trustee Mike Flood concurred.
“I want to be clear, I was the maker of the motion for the original ballot language [to exclude the village from levy collection] and I still stand by my motion.”
If the village is excluded, the Lake Orion Police Department would lose about $350,000 of its $800,000 budget. Other supplements to the village’s police budget include captures from the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), about $67,000, and transfers from the general fund, about $364,000.
“Those cuts would first and foremost affect our community, and all our police officers who serve our community,” McClary told trustees at the meeting. “Also based on legal opinions we sincerely believe that a Police Millage Agreement that excludes the village is unconstitutional as determined by Michigan courts.”
Village resident Kristen Trayner said her “mind was boggled.” Trayner is Flood’s daughter.
“What is also unconstitutional is taxation without representation,” she said. “All I’ve heard from the village council is that they don’t want the township to get involved. The village council has had plenty of time to start ballot language of their own, and all I’ve seen is teetering back and forth. If you don’t want the township in your affairs it should be up to us.”
She added that the Lake Orion Police Department is already three times more expensive than the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department. Orion Township taxpayers pay about $129 each for the contract with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department and village residents pay about $258 a year for the Lake Orion Police Department.
“What if the village residents vote that down? What kind of representation will we have then,?” Trayner asked.
Flood, like his daughter Trayner, believes township residents should not have the right to decide the business of the village, citing the 2012 police millage renewal and one mill increase as evidence.
“The township overwhelmed the village with our 11 to 1 ratio of our voting power. I don’t think it was fair on your residents to absorb that extra millage when it was us in the township trying to supplement our police department.”
Of the 14 precincts used in the 2012 Proposed Police Millage one-mill increase, six voted no, including precinct 2 at Blanch Sims Elementary, the village’s only precinct. Of the 626 village people who voted, 294 voted yes to approve the one mill increase, and 332 voted no. The other eight precincts voted yes.
Supervisor Chris Barnett said that that’s the reason the township agreed to separate the two millages in the first place.
“They’re [village residents] so outnumbered,” he said. “The village should have the opportunity to vote up or down, and the opportunity to ask for the amount of millages they are going for.”
For the past 24 years the village paid nothing for this service, however McClary said, a new revision to the village’s proposal states the village would pay $5.50 for every parcel.
Trustee Donnie Steele made another point.
“We are the only township that we know of the actually collects on behalf of another police department and because of that being convoluted is the reason we were backing down,” she said.
If no change is made to the current ballot language, the financial impact on the Lake Orion Police Department would be detrimental, Chief Jerry Narsh said.
“I would only ask that we agree collectively to move forward for this election cycle. Then we agree to disagree if we must to separate in a manner and at a time that doesn’t negatively impact our services. I would ask you to seriously consider that because those are very serious cuts that would be facing our department.”
Several officers spoke on behalf of the village.
Retired Oakland County Sheriff’s Department deputy Dale Romeo said as an Orion Township taxpayer he would like to see the relationship continue with the village.
“We need to work together, let’s not let things fail,” he said. “When I needed help, they were there. I worked with Narsh when he was an officer. I’m not talking traffic stops, I’m talking when people were shot.”
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By Meg Peters