A tax levy replacement used to fund the village’s police department will be back on the ballot next month in Ashley after failing to be extended last year. The proposed levy is at a rate of 6 mills for four years beginning in 2022, with it being first due in 2023.
According to the language of the ballot measure, the levy is “for the purpose of providing and maintaining motor vehicles, communications, and other equipment used directly in the operation of a police department,” as well as “for the payment of salaries of permanent police personnel.”
In 2021, Ashley residents voted down the replacement of a similar levy that asked for 6 mills over a period of five years, ceasing a revenue source Mayor Jim Nelson said dated back to the late 80s or 90s. “It’s always been one of those things we never thought the village residents would not approve it,” Nelson told The Gazette.
The five-year, 6-mill levy was renewed on the 2016 general election ballot with nearly 60% of the vote. However, the levy was put on the ballot as a replacement levy in 2021, taking into account the present-day property evaluations of voters. The replacement levy was voted down with 57% of the vote.
As a result of the failed levy, the Ashley Police Department was downsized from four to two full-time officers. Asked if the department is in danger of needing to be further downsized should the levy fail once again, Nelson said the Village Council would need to “weigh all of our options” and make a decision. “If at all possible, certainly, we want to keep the police department in operation,” he said.
Nelson, a resident of the village since 1974, added, “Ashley has been fortunate that we’ve had a police department in place. Although we get strong support from the sheriff’s office, it’s just nice that if something happens, we have somebody typically in place that can answer it a little quicker.”
Should the levy be passed by voters, it is expected to generate $94,176 in revenue for the police department. The village’s current police department budget, utilizing money from the general fund, is approximately $155,000, Nelson said.
Nelson said the goal of the village is to get back to employing four full-time officers if the levy is passed by voters.
Nelson acknowledged that “things are pretty tight” for residents, especially due to current inflation rates, but he believes the tax rate is fair and necessary for the future of the police department. “If the levy doesn’t pass, we just won’t have the money to support a full staff,” he said.