September 18, 2014

Sims Township wants AuGres to find police funding

Township will have police, says Sims Supervisor

By Kevin Bunch
Staff Writer | news@arenacindependent.com
Posted

SIMS TWP. — Sims Township Supervisor Rodney Francis countered allegations that the township would break from a cooperative police agreement with the city of AuGres, amid concerns AuGres will not be able to pay its share of the department’s funding.

The trouble started earlier this month, when AuGres notified Sims Township officials it would not have the money to fund its share of the AuGres-Sims Police Department budget in the next fiscal year. Both municipalities are obligated to pay $85,000, and raise the money primarily through millages.

Francis said the Sims Township Board rejected reducing joint operations and raising the millage rate for Sims Township.

“We want to continue equal payments,” Francis said. “We’re not delinquent in our monetary support. They are causing the breakdown.”

A proposal to form a joint authority at 2 mills also died in the Sims Township Board. Francis said under the proposal, Sims residents would pay $156,776 annually, while AuGres residents would pay $42,240.

The crux of the disagreement, according to Francis, comes from AuGres’ Tax Increment Finance Authority (TIFA) funding. The program came about to fight urban decay and spur redevelopment projects. AuGres has operated its TIFA program since 1985, which it uses to finance public infrastructure works in the city’s downtown, such as the community library, sidewalks, water and sewer systems, street lights, and playground equipment.

TIFA funds use the 1985 taxable property values within the TIFA district — in AuGres’ case, this district falls primarily within the US-23 corridor — as a baseline value. Growth in the taxable value for properties within the district is then captured and the revenue is used to finance projects.

These funds are captured throughout the life of the TIFA department through millages the city or township operates.

AuGres Deputy Treasurer Lavonne Pritchard said the city cannot legally pick and choose which millages TIFA funds are pulled from; the only exception is school-related millages. As a result, while the police millage may raise approximately $105,000 per year, roughly $40,000 goes towards the TIFA program.

Francis said the Sims Township board, including himself, wants to see AuGres find a way to finance the police department, or let the township know it cannot fund the department.

“Either they need to get $85,000 out of the money collected, or let us know in advance they can’t stick to the agreement,” Francis said.

He said after private discussions, officials with AuGres Township and Whitney Township were not interested in joining the AuGres-Sims Police Department agreement, and said he could not be a good spokesman for the program due to his own concerns about the TIFA funding. As a result, scheduled meetings with both township boards were canceled.

If a solution is not found to the problem, Francis said the board would explore operating an independent Sims Township police department, and possibly teaming up with another municipality for shared services.

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