Napoleon council will be considering other options over the next several days as it continues to weigh whether to accept a proposal to contract with the Henry County Sheriff's Office for emergency dispatch services.
Napoleon council will be considering other options over the next several days as it continues to weigh whether to accept a proposal to contract with the Henry County Sheriff’s Office for emergency dispatch services.
Two proposals floated by Councilman Travis Sheaffer would increase revenue to the city - one by lowering the income tax credit provided to Napoleon residents who work outside of the city and another for a levy to support fire and safety.
Sheaffer previously proposed reducing the city’s income tax credit for out-of-city workers by 25 percent over two years, with a 15 percent reduction in 2014 and another 10 percent in 2015. Currently, Napoleon provides a 100 percent tax credit to those residents who work in another town or city and pay income tax there. Sheaffer has pointed out this would impact him as well.
Reducing the tax credit would generate an estimated $66,500 in the first year and another $44,000 in the second.
Another part of his proposal is to not replace a police lieutenant position that has been vacated this year due to retirement and to reduce the dispatch by one full-time position. One dispatcher has already resigned this year, so it would be possible to not fill that seat either.
“My proposal generates $300,000 without a loss of service,” Sheaffer said Monday.
Councilman Chris Ridley said he felt reducing one lieutenant position at the police department is a reduction in service. There was also discussion later in the meeting about the impacts of only having five dispatchers.
“I have had to work some of the dispatchers 16 hour shifts after we went to five dispatchers,” said Police Chief Bob Weitzel. “I likely would have to deny more time off with only five. If not, the overtime will really skyrocket.”
He added he has denied earned time off for some dispatchers in order to keep the post manned.
“You can’t ask people to work forever without time off,” said Council President John Helberg.
Weitzel said a sixth dispatcher also allows him to schedule two dispatchers for late-night shifts on weekends, when call volumes tend to increase dramatically.
Hiring a sixth dispatcher would reduce the money saved by Sheaffer’s proposal by an estimated $55,000 per year initially.
Weitzel asked why the income tax credit has been set at 100 percent, and Sheaffer said the theory has been that not providing the tax credit would lead to residents who live in Napoleon but work elsewhere to leave the city. Though they do not pay income tax, they still pay for utilities and, presumably, shop local.
Sheaffer also said Monday council could put a fire and safety levy on the ballot, giving residents a voice.
“Then we can get a true sense of it,” Sheaffer said, adding he would prefer this option first over the income tax credit reduction.
This suggestion received little traction during the meeting, however.
Another option would be for Napoleon to simply eliminate its emergency dispatch operations and force the sheriff to handle basic emergency calls without any compensation from the city. Napoleon would still likely have to pay for staff to man the police station for paperwork and records requests, as well as some additional expense to alter how after-hour emergency operations calls, such as water main breaks and electric outages, are handled.
It would also remove an incentive in the current proposal for the city to pay 25 percent of the salary of any current Napoleon dispatcher hired at the sheriff’s office. That incentive was included as a way to protect at least some of the current city police dispatchers. The proposed deal also states the sheriff will hire a minimum of two current city dispatchers.
The final option being considered at this time is to do nothing and leave things the way they are. Mayor Ron Behm has stated he feels Napoleon needs to find some way to cut on spending without raising taxes. He said the city has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue from the state in the last few years, expenses continue to increase and wages for residents have been stagnant.
He pointed out Napoleon continues to budget $1 million a year for capital improvements, but fewer projects get done because of rising costs. When voters approved an increase to the income tax a few years ago, the split of that money was changed from being evenly divided between the general fund and capital improvements. Now, the split is more like 68 percent to the general fund and 32 percent to capital improvements.
This new split helps balance Napoleon’s budget each year, but Behm said it has a negative impact on the city’s infrastructure.
“You guys (police officers) spend more time on Napoleon roads than anybody, you’ve seen what kind of condition they are in,” Behm said. He added the city has little money to improve roads other than those involved in water or sewer projects being mandated by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
He also pointed out water and sewer rates have doubled in the city and likely will see large increases in the near future. Funding will also have to be found for a new water plant.
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