TWINSBURG TOWNSHIP — In an attempt to restore the level of service provided by the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, township officials are counting on residents to approve a 2.8-mill levy, Issue 16, on the May 8 ballot.

"The 2.8-mill rate would return the level of service to what it was prior to cuts in the three-year contract, which took effect Jan. 1," Township Manager Rob Kagler said.

Trustee Jim Balogh said additional money is needed to keep up with the sheriff’s department’s escalating costs, which have forced the township to dip further into its general fund to subsidize police protection.

"With costs increasing, it takes a greater toll on our general fund, thus impinging on our ability to fund other services," Balogh said.

In late January, Trustees discussed three levy options, the others being 1.8 mills and 6 mills. They decided to submit the 2.8-mill issue to the Board of Elections. It will generate about $444,000 per year and cost the owner of a $100,000 home an extra $98 per year.

"We try to maximize taxpayers’ money," said Balogh. "If residents like what we’ve done so far, we encourage them to support the levy. It will enable us to continue doing the best we can to keep residents safe."

Kagler said $150,000 from the general fund is budgeted this year for police protection. The township also has four police levies on the books — 3 mills (passed in 1991), 1 mill (1984), 1.14 mills (1993) and 1.75 mills (2011) — which generate about $541,976 a year.

In addition to the levies and general fund subsidy, Kagler said $111,850 comes from state reimbursements and $81,881 from Reminderville for its share of police protection in the Joint Economic Development District.

"With almost all of our state funding likely to be wiped out by 2024, it’s important to know revenue to operate the township must come from local sources such as the police levy," said Trustee Thomas Schmidt.

Although he said he had concerns about taxpayers’ financial well-being — noting many property tax bills went up in the past year — Schmidt favored placing the 2.8-mill levy on the ballot.

He said he will continue to work with the sheriff’s office to address costs and "be creative in funding police protection."

Back when the 2.8-mill option was chosen, Trustee Jamey DeFabio said although that rate wouldn’t take care of all of the township’s policing needs, "we should give voters the opportunity to decide."

Under the contract with the SCSO that runs until Dec. 31, 2020, the township will pay $856,901 this year to the county; $883,316 in 2019; and $910,540 in 2020 ($2.65 million total). That is about $103,000 less than the contract that expired Dec. 31, 2017, but the reduction is because service was scaled back in light of increasing costs.

The current contract pays the salaries of 6.25 deputies (11,814 working hours), costs for vehicles and equipment and one supervisor on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, plus hospitalization, employer’s share of pension contributions, workers’ compensation, training and firearms qualification.

The previous contract was for 7.25 deputies and 12,095 hours of work. If the levy passes, Kagler said one deputy and the previous amount of hours would be restored.

Kagler says the township had its own police department up until about 20 years ago, but decided that going with the sheriff’s department was a better option.

Balogh said he feels the sheriff’s office has done an "excellent job," and hopes voters will approve the new money.

At a recent Trustees meeting, Capt. Doug Smith, SCSO community relations commander, outlined some services which are provided to the township at no extra cost.

They include senior and neighborhood watch, Safety City, DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), community policing, traffic crash response, bomb squad, speakers’ bureau, marine unit, SWAT and the mounted patrol.

He said the department recently initiated CRASE (Civilian Response to an Active Shooter Event) training, which teaches people how to prepare for, and respond to, being trapped inside a building during an active shooter event.

In past years, the township has considered switching from the SCSO’s services to one from an area municipality, including the city of Twinsburg, though those options never came to fruition.

Reporter Ken Lahmers can be reached at 330-541-9400 ext. 4189 or klahmers@recordpub.com