Rutland Mayor: Village needs more tax revenue for police

Rutland Mayor Tyler M. Eblin is calling for voter support and stressing the need for increased tax revenue for the purpose of funding police service in the Village of Rutland.

Mayor Eblin explains that the current police protection levy only generates approximately $5,200 annually, and that the costs of operating a Village police department are much higher.

“If the Village is being lawful and fiscally responsible, it should only spend $5,200 for police service,” stated Mayor Eblin. “We all know that is not possible.”

Given the current expenses of police service and forecasted expenses of much more improved police service, Mayor Eblin explains that voters must approve a 6-mill police protection levy; or the Rutland Village Council must levy by Village ordinance a 1% income tax. Mayor Eblin believes the Village should have police on the streets at least four to five days weekly and acknowledges that the Village “will never have enough tax revenue to support around-the-clock police service.”

Recently, the Village of Rutland was awarded the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG grant), which allowed the Village to provide police service and upgrade police equipment while simultaneously allowing the general fund deficit to somewhat heal. The JAG grant award period has ended, and taxpayers will now have to foot the costs for police protection.

In addition to the JAG grant, the Village was provided by donation two patrol cars from Franklin County Sheriff’s Office. Among the in-kind donations, the Village police department received monetary donations in favor of the Law Enforcement Trust Fund to help with equipment costs.

“We greatly appreciate our donors. All have helped make a difference in our police agency; and it does not go without being noticed,” comments Mayor Eblin. “Every dollar helps, and we have so many dollars still needed; and while grants and donations help, they’re simply the icing on the cake. We must primarily rely on annual tax revenue.”

With a 6-mill police protection levy supplementing the existing 2-mill police protection levy, or a 1% income tax, Mayor Eblin feels that police service could be provided on a daily basis, with a Marshal on duty four to five days each week. “The Marshal could have a full-time position, which would allow him to focus on Rutland, and not have a separate full-time job interfering with his duties,” comments Mayor Eblin.

Until adequate funding is received, the Village Council will face the difficult decision to scale back hours of police service, including the decision to fully suspend police service once the 2-mill police protection levy is exhausted.

“Many weeks will pass without police service from the Village,” comments Mayor Eblin. “I’m afraid there will be no end, either. Given the current financial hardship, we will have a long journey unless we secure the much needed funding.”

The Mayor continues by stating, “As much as we appreciate the assistance of the sheriff’s office, I’m afraid that sheriff’s deputies do not have the time to devote to our community, given their jurisdiction of unincorporated areas and burden of prisoner transport. Rutland needs its police department; our citizens deserve a Marshal who can protect life and property on a daily basis.”

In the short meantime, Mayor Eblin is encouraging voters to approve the 2-mill operating expenses levy on the ballot this November general election, which is estimated to provide an additional $7,000 in revenue, which can supplement the police department budget to keep police on the streets.

The Mayor hopes to hold a public meeting with residents to discuss the future of the Village, the need for increased tax revenue and measures under consideration.

“The voters ultimately have the choice, and the vote of the people will always be respected in my book,” comments Mayor Eblin. “With that, we must understand: We either fund our police, or we face a very difficult decision of disbanding our police. Without a Village Marshal and deputy marshals on patrol in our community, I can promise that we will have more speeding vehicles on our streets, more property crime, more theft at our stores, more drug activity, and only God knows what else. It is difficult to imagine.”

Submitted by Rutland Mayor Tyler Eblin.

(Editor’s note: The Village of Rutland will be holding a public informational meeting to inform citizens and community stakeholders “of the Village’s financial distress, impending cuts in public services and the need for more tax revenue, with a supplemental tax levy and a Village income tax under consideration,” according to a news release at 7 p.m., Monday, Oct. 25 at Rutland Civic Center.)