Funding proposals for Crawford County Sheriff’s Office will be on November ballot
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
The Crawford County Sheriff’s Office will have a millage renewal plus an additional millage to fund the 24-hour road patrol on the Tuesday, Nov. 6, general election ballot.
The Crawford County Board of Commissioners, at its regular monthly meeting on July 26, agreed to put the two millage proposals on the ballot.
The 0.8917 mill renewal, which is equal to $0.8917 per $1,000 of taxable value, would be levied for a period of four years, 2020 through 2023. The purpose of the millage is to pay for police protection services provided through the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office, including 24-hour road patrol, and sheriff’s office staffing and equipment.
County officials opted to put the millage, which expires in 2019, on the ballot this year, so they would not have to fund the cost for a special election next year. Crawford County Treasurer Joe Wakeley said there are no elections scheduled in 2019, and funding a special election would cost the county thousands of dollars.
Initially approved at one mill in 2004, the amount the millage generates has been reduced by the Headlee Amendment, a state law which requires municipalities to reduce millages each year to account for the rate of inflation.
“You don’t think that’s much, but it equates to several thousand dollars, and you add to that over the last 14 years, the cost of doing business has increased,” said Crawford County Sheriff Kirk A. Wakefield.
The Sheriff’s Office was forced to cease its 24-hour road patrol in 1998 due to county budget woes before turning to voters to restore services.
The millage was renewed by voters in 2008, 2010, and 2014.
When first approved, the millage paid to place a sheriff’s deputy on the Strike Team Investigative Narcotics Group (STING).
In 2012, the deputy devoted to STING from Crawford County was cut due to the drop in millage funding and the elimination of grants to fund the multi-county drug enforcement team operated by the Michigan State Police.
“Over these years, with things shrinking, I had to abandon that STING officer to keep the midnight patrol, and to keep a guy in the schools,” Wakefield said.
The cost of patrol vehicles and equipment has also gone up over the years.
“Things only last so long, and you have to replace them,” Wakefield said.
Therefore, the sheriff’s office is also seeking an added 0.1083 mills, which is equal to $0.1083 per $1,000 of taxable value, for a period of six years, 2018 through 2023.
“It’s tough, but to able to maintain what I have right now, this is what I need to do,” Wakefield said. “I hate going to the people. I don’t like paying taxes any more than anybody else does, but the reality of it is, in order for me to keep moving forward with what I have now, I need this millage renewal and I need a little bit of an increase.”
The Crawford County Sheriff’s Office employs 20 people, which includes the corrections officers who staff the jail. There are currently nine road patrol officers, rather than 10 who are normally on duty. Two deputies recently left to go to work for other departments, who were replaced. One deputy went on permanent medical leave.
Wakefield is trying to bring on another road patrol deputy when the county’s fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.
“I’m hoping to,” Wakefield said. “I’m just waiting to see how my budget works out.”
Instead of having steady complaints and traffic issues in the summer, sheriff’s deputies face ongoing complaints due to more people coming to the area and traveling through the county.
“Right now, we’re running from call to call,” Wakefield said. “It used to be a seasonal thing. Now, it’s steady all year round.”
When the millage requests expire in 2023, they will be rolled into one funding proposal to fund services going forward.
“It means a lot to me, because that will keep me going. I don’t like doing this, but I have to,” Wakefield said. “That’s the only way I can maintain proper protection for the people. That’s what it’s all about is service to the people.”