City police levy vote Tuesday

By Dean Wright -

GALLIPOLIS — Gallipolis city residents will determine their police budget future Tuesday when voting whether to approve or not a 1 percent additional income tax to fund police operational and capital needs within city limits.

Here is a summation of information gathered by Ohio Valley Publishing over the course of the campaign season.

The city currently already operates under a 1 percent income tax, should the levy pass, it would become a 2 percent tax.

City Clerk and Auditor Annette Landers said the Gallipolis Police Department currently accounts for roughly $1.2 million of the general fund. This year, the city anticipates it will bring $2.95 million into the general fund. The police department’s budget is the largest of all the city departments.

City Commissioner Tony Gallagher has emphasized that while it may appear the city has money to spare on projects like the waterfront improvement project along Gallipolis’ river bank, it is funded heavily by grants awarded by the state and various other organizations. Where departments like the water treatment plant and sewer treatment plant seem to be operating without as much pressure, state law dictates that funding generated by billing from both facilities cannot be moved to other departments in city finances.

Members of the public have asked why the city has seemingly lost so much money over the years. According to city officials, much of the funding has been loss 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.

City tax officer Ron Lynch has told the Tribune in previous meetings he estimates the city to lose at least $100,000 or more in tax revenue due to changes in state tax law with the passage of House Bill 5. The law mostly affects contract workers who reportedly can file tax papers later than previously able when their employees enter the city to work.

According to Landers, money was also further lost because Ohio’s law changed in the collection of estate tax. In 2011, Gallipolis collected roughly $200,000 from the tax. Now, with changes in tax law, that source of revenue no longer exists. According to city records, estate tax brought in roughly $400 in 2014 and nothing in 2015 with the abolishment of the practice.

City officials have told municipal department heads in the past that money spent in their agencies was done as efficiently as possible and with due diligence. City commissioners have claimed that gradual cutbacks of employees, equipment and resources have led to a point where the municipality is dangerously close to not being able to operate without reductions in service to its citizens. “Death by a thousand paper cuts” has been a phrase used within the halls of the Gallipolis Municipal Building in regards to the phenomena.

City officials claim the 1 percent income tax increase would alleviate stress on the police department as funds would go chiefly to its operation. With that, other city departments would potentially be able to operate more easily. Funds collected from the levy legally have to be placed in a fund separate from the Gallipolis general fund. While Gallipolis Police Department would pull from this fund (and only the police department could pull from this fund) the general fund could still be used to supplement the police fund if needed. According to Landers, the general fund is able to do this with all city projects. With the levy passage, officials say ideally the police department would pull less from the general fund.

City Manager Gene Greene said the city would be lucky to keep the officers it has, if the levy fails. He detailed how he was concerned that crimes within the city were at an all-time high and the number of police in town were at an all-time low. Currently, the city is manned by 10 officers, that includes the chief and the detective. City officials at past meetings have said they would like to ideally hire five more officers to total at 15 to meet crime demands.

Gallipolis City Police Chief Boyer has claimed housing inmates cost upwards of $170,000 to $200,000 per year in past years and that number may likely increase as officers have said they cannot control the number of individuals who must be arrested. Officers have also claimed that prisoner transport can eat up a great deal of time as the jail in Gallia is always nearly full so officers are taking a lot of time moving prisoners as far away as north of Columbus and just east of Cincinnati. Housing a prisoner in the Gallia Jail can cost around $70 a day.

City officials say if the levy is passed to further fund the police department, there will be a fund separate from the general fund where all of that money will be placed. If the city does collect $1.55 million from a 1 percent income tax, that would mean the city would collect $3.1 million in a 2 percent income tax. Half of that, being roughly $1.55 million, would be available for police to use.

City officials have said all of the money collected from the police levy would solely be used for police services and equipment. Part of that equipment, Boyer said, would ideally be used to outfit three new police cruisers as three aging cruisers in GPD’s police fleet have roughly 150,000 miles on them and one is bad enough officers will not drive it outside of town.

According to Boyer, equipment in the form of vests, radios and other equipment carried by officers on a daily basis can cost as much as $2,000 or more.

City officials have said they attempt to apply for every grant opportunity they have to fund the police force. This year, law enforcement officials instituted a “day-report” program which has saved the city nearly $40,000. The money is saved by making nonviolent offenders do work about the city, which has saved maintenance workers time and the city from having to pay for jail housing expenses.

In 2012, the city experienced 483 theft reports. In 2015, they had 520 theft reports. As of this year, there have been 339 theft reports, according to the police chief. That number does not count burglaries, robberies or motor vehicle thefts. Boyer blamed much of the property crime on individuals tied to addiction or substance abuse.

This year, there have been six motor vehicle thefts. In 2014, the city police had 7,149 calls of service. In 2015, had 7,844 calls of service. Boyer said that can range from anything to security alarm calls to thefts and drug overdoses. In 2015, there were 954 adults arrested and out of those there were 1,254 charges, those made of both traffic and criminal violations. In 2015, officers hat 1,187 police reports and 285 crash reports. Drug reports the same year numbered at 110, and this year the department is handling 85 drug reports. The drug reports can consist of overdoses, drug possessions and any other drug-related crime. In 2015, there were three overdose deaths and this year there has been only one. Boyer credited Narcan training and use by officers for the reduction.

Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.

By Dean Wright