RIO GRANDE — A proposed income tax increase will again be before the voters in the Village of Rio Grande on election day.
The proposed half of a percent (1/2) income tax increase in the village will go toward supporting the police and fire departments — an increase in funds that is much needed at the Rio Grande Police Department, according to Chief Dan Day.
“We want to put more hours on the road and get more people. We want more equipment, too. We have to replace some equipment, but equipment is not our number one priority. I’d rather have people to operate the equipment we have,” Day said. “That’s what we’re going to use the money for, mainly, is for staffing.”
The half of a percent increase, should it pass, will be added to the one percent income tax rate that is currently in effect within Rio Grande — funds that go directly into the village’s general fund. However, the proposed half of a percent increase will not be used for any other purpose and will go directly to the police and fire departments with each receiving a quarter of a percent of the funds generated from the increase.
The proposed increase equates to $25 for every $5,000 of income earned in the village.
The chief also noted that income from retirement, disability, Social Security, investments and unemployment will not be taxed by the police and fire levy if passed.
Since its re-opening in April 2007, an average of 100 reports are taken at the police department in Rio Grande each year. This year, however, report number 100 came and went earlier this year with that number still on the rise, according to Day — a trend that is likely linked to an increase in drug activity throughout the county.
“The drug problem, it’s on the rise, and, with that, any related crime, like theft, goes up, too,” he said.
Also, according to the police chief, with each passing year, the cost of running the department only increases, and, with funding cuts in other agencies, the police department only has more of a need to increase its hours of coverage.
“Our main goal is to get more coverage hours, because we’re not here 24 hours a day. I don’t really want to say how many hours a day we are here, for obvious reasons, but we’re not here 24 hours a day,” Day said. “Our response time is really slow when we’re not here, and if we’re not available, usually, it just falls back on the sheriff’s office. That just adds more problems to them, because they have enough coverage problems of their own. They are in the same boat we all are in.”
While suffering from an increase in criminal activity, the village as a whole, including the police department, has taken a hit via funding cuts on the undivided local government fund.
According to Day, over a two-year period, those funding cuts have equaled 42 percent.
“In my opinion as the police chief, we really need the coverage, and our need for the coverage has grown since we’ve opened. I know the fire department has funding problems, also. We’re all funded out of the same general fund. The general fund took the hit — 42 percent. That trickles on down to the fire department and police department,” he said.
Day further reported that, while he knows, presently, it is economically difficult for everyone, it is his hope that the people of the village see the need for additional police protection.
“It’s always hard to go out and ask people to spend more money especially when times are tough like they are now,” Day commented. “Nobody wants to spend more money, but we have to decide: do we want the coverage and/or do we want to save that half a percent?”
Reportedly, the half of a percent income tax increase in the village will be an additional levy for the Rio Grande Volunteer Fire Department as the department currently does receive funding via a fire levy through Raccoon Township.