'It's a renewal; it's not going to be an increase'

Zoe Greszler • Jul 11, 2018 at 2:00 AM

WILLARD — The November ballot will have voters considering a renewal levy to benefit the Willard Police Department, but the wording of the tax could cause some confusion for voters. 

Willard City Manager Jim Ludban told council that the secretary of state mandated the wording of the 1/8-percent income tax renewal levy, with one of the requirements being that the tax cannot include the word “renewal” on the ballot. Instead the ballot will tell voters, in part, that the tax will “provide an additional 1/8 of 1 percent,” something council members said could cause confusion. 

“It is a renewal but the way the state told us it has to be worded, it has to show up as income tax,” said at-large Councilman Josh Gerber. “That’s what the law director told us — that that’s what they said last time (the tax was up for renewal). They said it couldn’t say ‘renewal.’ I think all of council was confused by this. I don’t know if it was a miscommunication on the state’s part or what. But either way, it’s the same tax everyone’s been paying.”

Gerber said the levy was started in 2007 after “the state continued to make cuts to the local funds.”

“We didn’t want to make any cuts to the police department and the work they’re doing, so council put it out to the community — ‘If you pay this, we can maintain our current staff.’ At the time when it was first passed it allowed us to get our first school resource officer (SRO).” 

According to the city website, the department staffs 14 full-time officers, plus one part-time officer and eight reserve officers. 

The tax still funds the SRO, as well two other officers — a detective and a juvenile detective, whom Chief Shannon Chaffins said is, among other things, in charge of any child abuse cases that to the police. 

Chaffins said the tax is “absolutely” important to helping to keep the youth of the community safe.

“It keeps the officer in the schools for security purposes and educational purposes,” he said of the SRO officer. “He does drug-abuse education, the D.A.R.E. program and the SRO program. He’s a very busy man.”

Chaffins and council said the goal now is help voters understand how important the levy is and that they aren’t being asked for any new money.

“I would love it to pass. I’m hopeful that it passes and I’m hopeful people are happy with what we’re doing and that people want things to stay the way they are,” Chaffins said. “It’s just what they’re already paying. It’s not going to be an increase, so hopefully we can get the word out and ease people’s minds a little bit.”

“The police have been doing a pretty good job with controlling the crime and drugs,” Gerber said. “We’ve been pleased with them and I think the community has been too. We just kind of discussed it at the last council meeting that we as council need to get the word out that it is a renewal so when they show up at the ballot voters aren’t confused by the wording. 

”This does pay for three officers and one of them is the SRO,” he added. “With everything going on in the country right now, we feel this is a very important.”

Ludban said he is confident in the passage of the tax.

“This is not anything new. This is not new money,” he said. 

“We’re feeling pretty good about it. The police department is pretty active and (does a good job) with controlling the crime. (The Norwalk Reflector reports) them pretty regularly in the paper and it's evident the hard work (the police department does). They make it a safer place to live and work and play.”

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