August ballot to include special levy for Elma Police Department

Levy would go towards maintenance of staffing and operations

In August, Elma voters will be asked to authorize a one-year special property tax levy that would collect $200,000 to help fund the city’s police department.

Elma Police Chief Susan Shultz said the money would go to staffing and general operations. Shultz asked the council at the April 10 meeting to authorize the levy. Originally, the council was considering a figure of $175,000, but after a discussion raised it to $200,000, which would be collected in 2018.

Voters approved a similar levy last year for $250,000.

Mayor Jim Sorensen said he would like to see it cut down even more when the time is right. “I just want the citizens to know that we’re doing the best we can with the money they’re giving us,” he said.

The proposed levy is estimated to cost taxpayers 94 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The owner of a property valued at $150,000 would pay $141.

There was discussion of putting the measure on the ballot again in November, if it should fail in August.

Councilman Charlie Butterfield cast the only dissenting vote saying he prefers the $175,000 figure. He approved sending the matter to the November ballot.

Other business

Councilman Jim Taylor asked the council to consider raising the discretionary spending limit for the fire department.

The limit puts a ceiling on how much money the fire chief can spend on a purchase without approval from the council. Taylor wants to raise it from $1,500 to $5,000. “He knows exactly what he’s doing, he knows exactly what he’s asking for,” Taylor said of fire Chief Tyson Boling.

The council was unanimously in favor of the hike, and a resolution is set to be drafted for the council’s next meeting.

Taylor said he’d also like to see the limit raised for the police department.

The council unanimously approved a request from Boling for the acquisition of required gear and services, such as hose testing and fire-pump maintenance.

Police cars

The council unanimously approved a request from Chief Shultz to lease three new police vehicles.

Shultz told the council that the average age of a police vehicle is seven years, and the Elma Police Department currently has four vehicles more than 10 years old. She said the three oldest vehicles have required $11,000 worth of repairs within the last three years.

East Main Street

The council gave unanimous authorization for the mayor to sign a contract with Rognlin’s Inc. for the East Main Street road construction project in the amount of $785,988. The project entails a widening of the road, construction of sidewalks, street lighting and storm drainage improvements, according to public works director Jim Starks.

The City of Elma funded the design phase of the project ($90,000) out of the city’s street fund. The construction itself will come courtesy of a Federal Highway Administration grant administered by the State Department of Transportation.