Newton Falls levy could save police department
Newton Falls' City Council is voting to put a four mill, 5 year police tax levy on the ballot during their meeting Tuesday evening.
The city of Newton Falls' police department is over budget, which has resulted in the reduction of officers and staff and a hiring freeze.
"We're down in the police department and we're down in every department," said Pamela Priddy, City Manager of Newtown Falls to 21 News. "We had to cut back our zoning inspector to a part time position, for example."
The levy would allow the city to help fund the police department and bring in more officers. Other department's continuing to struggle include court system, electric and water department.
$250,000 in American Rescue Plan funding went towards the police department's wages but with that money not coming back every year, the village believes a levy is the way to go.
"We've never been in this bad of a circumstance before with our budget," said John Baryak, 2nd Ward Councilman.
"There's no way we can have a police budget at $685,000, so we're going to have to cut the police department if this levy is not successful," Priddy explained.
If the levy does not pass, the entire police department could be eliminated. The area would then be patrolled by the Trumbull County Sheriff's Department which means all Newton Falls Police would be out of a job.
Tesa Spletzer told 21 News the village is in "a dire situation" and "everything is on the table." Spletzer explained getting rid of NFPD could be the solution if the levy is not passed. She added she is working on other solutions and plan to present her ideas to council on June 15.
On Tuesday, council will also request a certificate from the Trumbull County Auditor which will establish how much the city will bring in from the levy, and how much a household worth $100,000 would pay towards the tax levy per year.
"Before we went to ask the sheriff's department to get involved, the cost per officer was more than us," explained Baryak. "I don't know that when the time comes to use the sheriff's department, we'll be getting cheaper or be able to do more services than what we are now."
Priddy told 21 News the department now has 3 full time police officers instead of 5 and they have 8 part time who work regularly.
Priddy told 21 News the vote passed unanimously to move forward with the police levy, but an income tax proposal failed to pass, with Mayor Ken Kline breaking the tie.
"On Monday morning, our Chief of Police was the only one on duty," Priddy explained.
Police levy's haven't had much success in the village. If this police levy passes, it would be the first in the town's 150 year history. But, that isn't dimming hope for council members.
"I do believe people in town want a police department to be able to respond immediately," Baryak said. "With the right eduction on it, what it'll cost and being transparent, we can pass it."
Priddy told 21 News she can not ballpark how much the levy would cost the average homeowner.
"Any little bit we can obtain will help us tremendously," Baryak said. "We're working all avenues to try and save our community."
"This levy won't solve all of our issues, but it would be a good start," Priddy said.
There's also a Police Levy Committee made up of Newton Falls citizens to encourage the community to vote for the levy. Contact Priddy's office if you are someone you know would be interested.