The village of Shawnee Hills has a growing need in its police department, and to address that need, the village will go to the ballot on March 17 in search of the community’s support.
Proposed is a 3.5-mill property tax to help fund the police department.
According to a levy information sheet posted on the village’s website, there is no current levy on the books for the police department.
If passed, the levy would begin in 2021. As for what it would cost property owners within the village, the information sheet states, “The police levy rate on a $100,000 piece of property would be $125 per year, which breaks down to $10.42 per month, $2.38 per week, or 34¢ per day.”
With the additional funding, Police Chief Russell Baron said the police department will be able to maintain the resources it currently has, as well as make some needed additions.
“Our officers’ salaries are well below the average for this area,” Baron pointed out, adding that better salaries will help with retaining officers.
The Shawnee Hills Police Department currently employs five full-time police officers and nine part-time officers, who are required to work at least three shifts a month.
Since the department moved to a full-time department in 2017, there has been a bigger strain placed on the department’s equipment. With the levy, Baron hopes to be able to reduce some of that strain.
“Since we went to the 24/7 agency, we have three cruisers and you can’t run them 24/7,” Baron said. “We need to add one or two to be able to not tax (the cruisers) too much.”
Baron added the need for additional funding in the police department has been building for several years, and in a smaller community, the impact of even just one or two community members leaving will be felt.
“The village budget has been declining over the last few years,” he said. “Being a small community, you lose a couple of residents that are high earners and that impacts our income.”
Baron said the levy has received mix reviews in the community, pointing out that those who are on a fixed income don’t necessarily appreciate the idea of the levy, although they do enjoy the idea of having a police department.
Asked how the 3.5-mill levy rate was decided on, Baron said it took some time to figure out the best proposal to the community.
“It took us a while to decide on the number,” he said. “We identified that (3.5 mills) would sustain us for the next five years. We have a lot of growth projected in the village, businesses that are growing or are slated to come in currently. We think that growth, combined with the levy, will sustain us long term.”
Baron said the goal at the end of the five-year levy cycle is to renew it at a lower rate or not renew it at all. “I think the village is just in an awkward phase, a growing phase, and we just need to get over that hurdle.”
If the levy were to fail, the village’s levy information sheet states “there will likely be cuts to staffing, including but not limited to, reducing patrol hours, laying off part-time patrol officers, disbanding of the K9 unit, cancelling of police sponsored community events, lowered access to grant funding, and partnerships with specialized units such as the Missing Child Response Team, Sexual Assault Response Team, and the Crisis Negations Team will be reduced or eliminated.