The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

November 7, 2013

Ashtabula Police Department will remain status quo without levy cash

ASHTABULA — A levy to put more police officers on the streets failed in Tuesday’s election by 257 votes cast against the tax increase.

The additional 2.5-mill tax would have been used to hire seven new department employees, thereby slashing down overtime. Cuts in state funding prevented the city from replacing personnel as they left, and now the department will have to continue to operate without a full staff, Police Chief Robert Stell said.

“It’s disappointing,” Stell said after unofficial poll results were released on Tuesday night. “We gave it our best.”

The increased police protection would have cost about $44 a year for a homeowner with property valued at $50,000, according to City Manager Jim Timonere.

“The failure of the levy is unfortunate; it means the police department remains status quo,” Timonere said. “It would have made a big difference by increasing the staff.”

City Auditor Dana Pinkert said the budget the city manager will propose to City Council at the budget workshop, beginning at 9 a.m. Nov. 14, doesn’t account for the levy passing.

“We didn’t count our chickens before they hatched,” she said.

Ward 1 Councilman Rick Balog, who also chairs council’s safety forces committee, said he is disappointed, but at the same time “the people have spoken.” It’s difficult to pass a levy, he said.

Timonere said he understands people don’t want to pay more taxes, so he recommends they call their state representatives and ask them for their money back.

City Solicitor Michael Franklin explained that when the State of Ohio balanced its budget, it put together a multi-million dollar ‘rainy day’ fund and gave everyone an income tax cut by taking away virtually all financial support of local governments.

“That means hundreds of thousands of dollars of Ashtabula taxpayer money that used to come back to us for things like police protection are now being kept in Columbus,” he said.

That’s why City Council reluctantly asked voters to accept a small additional tax on their property values to make up a portion of what Columbus took away, he said.       

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