Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Belleville officials explain Tuesday advisory vote

Members of the Belleville City Council scheduled a special meeting last week to discuss the 2-mill public safety assessment question which will be on the local ballot Tuesday.
The elected officials explained to the small audience that the vote on the question was advisory and that the city would not be required to follow the results of the election.
Several firefighters in the audience were among those who criticized the council members for not making the decision to implement the assessment to fund public safety in the community.

Mayor Kerreen Conley reminded the audience at Belleville High School that the officials were not required to schedule the meeting and that whatever happened at the polls Tuesday would be taken into consideration in making the decision.
Councilman Tom Fielder told the group that the question would come before the council members at the second meeting in November. Should the council members approve the levy, it will appear on the winter tax bills of property owners in the city.
Public safety costs in the city have been discussed multiple times by the council members and officials who have explained that the city does not receive enough tax revenue currently to provide public safety services and that the purchase of needed equipment like police patrol vehicles and fire trucks cannot be funded at the current revenue level. The 2-mill assessment, if approved, would generate about $90,000 annually for 10 years.  Members of the council would be required to vote to continue the assessment each year, Conley explained.
Audience members questioned the fate of the proposal should voters reject the question and Conley suggested that the council members could then vote on the question or wait to determine why the millage question failed at the polls. She noted that arbitrarily levying the millage was “not a good idea” but stressed that the current city revenue is inadequate to provide public safety in the city or meet the current operating needs of the department.
Currently, one third of property in the city is tax exempt noted Mayo Pro tem Jack Loria, and includes churches, schools and the library.
Fire Chief Brian Loranger explained that the need for equipment is serious and that one city fire truck is from 1989 while the other is from 1998.
Should the 2-mills be assessed by council members, the revenue could be used for both equipment and operational costs in the public safety department.
Polls in the city will be open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. Nov. 5.