Many of you may remember in February, a millage proposal was on the ballot to help maintain sheriff patrols and ensure 24-hour coverage by sheriff deputies. The request was for 1 mill for five years, but was defeated by a slim margin of 120 votes. The request was due to budget cuts of $1.1 million from the county general fund budget.
Beginning Oct. 1, an additional $745,000 in cuts was made which has forced more cuts in the sheriff’s budget. As a result, as of Oct. 1, the Montcalm County Sheriff’s Office no longer is able to staff 24-hour countywide patrols. This means there will be times each day where no deputy will be on duty to respond to calls in Montcalm County. Not since the early to mid-1960s has the county gone without 24-hour sheriff coverage. Except for the city of Greenville, the sheriff’s office is the only other agency that had 24-hour patrols in Montcalm County.
The sheriff’s office receives the majority of funds from county property taxes. Reduced revenues from property taxes, cuts in revenue sharing and increased operational costs are some of the reasons that forced the Montcalm County Board of Commissioners to make cuts in the general fund budget. Wage freezes, wage cuts, layoffs, nonpaid furlough days and employee concessions have also been implemented to help cut costs. Just in the past two years, the county general fund budget has been cut by approximately $1.9 million, of which about $700,000 in cuts were made from the sheriff’s budget. For the past several years, the Sheriff’s Office has taken inmate lodgers from other jails that are overcrowded to help offset budget cuts. However, that revenue stream has been dwindling due to the construction of new jail facilities in other counties. It is anticipated that an additional $350,000 in boarding revenue will be lost next year, which may result in even more cuts.
On Nov. 6, a millage request will again be on the ballot to help support the Sheriff’s Office. However, the millage request has been reduced to 0.6 of a mill and the duration reduced to only two years. This millage, if approved, would generate approximately $971,000 per year for two years and would restore 24-hour sheriff patrols. As an example, the cost for a home or piece of property with a taxable value of $50,000 would be $30 or $60 for a taxable value of $100,000 per year for the next two years.
While the amount seems to be fairly small, the benefits are huge. With crime continuing to rise, the last thing we want to do is send a message to criminals that there are fewer deputies on duty and sometimes none at all. That is why I am asking you to vote “yes” on the Montcalm County law enforcement millage.
If you wish to learn more about the millage, you may e-mail the COPS committee at firstname.lastname@example.org or mail the Committee on Public Safety, P.O. Box 875, Stanton, Mich., 48888, or visit us on Facebook at “Montcalm County Law Enforcement Millage.”
Bill Barnwell is the sheriff of Montcalm County.
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