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Montpelier looking at public safety levy

MONTPELIER— A proposed levy for the Village of Montpelier would help solve some issues safety chiefs have recently expressed to the village council, and council intends to get it on the November ballot.

The levy is a 0.2% renewable earned income tax levy, that would cost a household making $48,000 a year $96 a year, according to a handout at Monday’s council meeting. The levy would provide funding only for the police and fire departments and is estimated to bring in $287,000 a year for 10 years.

Last month, Fire Chief Brian Fritsch told council the department needs a new ladder truck that would cost $1.8 million to purchase this year and goes up roughly $200,000 a year. Meanwhile, Police Chief Dan McGee said his department would be best served with two additional officers.

Council had first reading on a resolution to put the levy on November’s ballot and will need two additional readings to pass. Village Manager Jason Rockey said the deadline to get on the ballot is in August, so council has enough time to do three readings.

The proposal came from the public safety committee, consisting of council members Chris Kannel, Don Schlosser and Heather Freese.

“Initially, these funds would be used to purchase a replacement ladder truck, which would be a truck that we hope would be relevant in the next 30 years,” Freese said. “Initially, these funds would be used to add two police officers, intending to, in the words of Chief McGee, ‘Prepare our police department for the future.’”

If passed, this tax would bring the combined income tax in the village to 1.8%, which she said is comparable to many communities in the region.

As an earned income tax, the levy would tax money received as payment for work, such as wages, salaries, bonuses, commissions, tips and net earnings from self-employment.

However, with loan services for a ladder truck estimated at $165,000 a year and two police officers costing $170,000, the levy would fall short of bringing in all the money needed, according to the levy handout.

“Council, administration and the departments would have to continue cost savings and pursue grant funding and other sources of revenue to make sure the budgets are met,” Freese said.

Mayor Steve Yagelski said he appreciated all the behind-the-scenes work done by the committee, work he says often goes unnoticed by the public.

“We just don’t, on a whim, make a decision,” he said. “There’s a lot of homework done upfront, a lot of involvement with the parties involved, in this case our first responders and a lot of transparency and openness.”

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