GALLIPOLIS — Gallipolis city officials and police will be holding a public informational meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Gallipolis City Building in regard to the upcoming police levy ballot issue slated for vote in November.
The levy seeks to add a 1 percent increase to the income tax of those who work within municipal limits to help further fund police and security issues within town. As Gallipolis already has a local 1 percent income tax, should voters pass the levy, this would mean the city would then have a 2 percent income tax. The issue had previously been voted upon in the March primaries as well, but did not pass. Previously reported unofficial results said city residents voted the issue down, 598 to 303.
Individuals on a fixed income or income assistance would not contribute to the income tax.
City commissioners and officials have not given up hope, though, as budget problems continue to plague the city’s general fund. Roughly half of the city’s general fund goes toward GPD’s efforts.
Members of the public have asked why the city has seemingly lost so much money over the years. According to the three city officials, much of the funding has been lost due to cuts in state funding and tax law changes. According to budget records, in 2011, the city had access to $3.97 million to operate departments. Funding dropped to roughly $3.93 million in 2012. It fell further to about $3.55 million in 2013.
Officials anticipate the city will bring in its lowest revenues in 2016 at roughly $2.95 million if something does not soon change with revenue generation. Currently, with municipal income taxes, the city anticipates it will bring in roughly $1.55 million from individuals working in Gallipolis for the 2016 year. That number has remained arguably steady with a total of $1.59 million being tallied in 2011.
Officials claim they have cut about as much as they can and may face serious safety issues if they are forced to further cut police funding. Gallipolis Police Chief Jeff Boyer says the city is at an all-time low in regard to full-time officers with the department. Currently, the department has 10 full-time road officers. In previous years, the department had between 15 to 20 officers. Boyer says there is higher property crime now because of the heroin epidemic and it’s harder for officers to do an investigation.
“It’s harder for us to get the search warrants to do an investigation because we’re doing more reactive stuff,” he said. “When somebody calls us, we’re going to that house instead of being able to spend time to do investigations to eradicate some of the drug problems from these houses.”
Boyer said a lot of times, two officers are working the road and that can pose a safety issue for the police. Boyer explained a scenario in which one officer may collect an individual for an offense, then must drive that person to jail. That leaves one officer on the road. If a dangerous situation occurs, that officer may be left without backup because the other is attending to inmate transport issues. Some inmates, according to Boyer, are being taken as far away as Morrow County, north of Columbus, to be housed because of already crowded jails.
Boyer said the department has paid between $170,000 to $200,000 in inmate housing and is looking at exceeding that mark this year.
Three of the five typical patrol cars used by officers are looking at roughly 150,000 miles of use. The two newer Dodge Chargers have roughly 30,000 miles on them.
While officer counts have fallen in recent years, crime activity still continues to grow.
“Our guys (police) aren’t asking for raises,” Boyer said. “They’re asking for help doing their jobs. With all these shootings (against officers) these days, it’s dangerous. It’s always been dangerous (being on the force), but now more than ever when you have a guy answering a call.”
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.