With all the talk of reinventing our police and fire departments and possibly taking over public safety services in Highland Park, maybe it’s time to revisit another option.
A couple of years ago, city officials discussed asking voters to OK a public safety tax. The issue never went anywhere.
But we’d like to bring it back up because the city’s budget is heading for a crisis, and the thought of losing our public safety to Detroit or somewhere else is scary to say the least.
If voters were to OK five extra mills on the property taxes, the city would raise about $1 million. Now, that’s not enough to carry the full weight of both departments, but it would go a long way toward lightening the load.
We understand these are tough times for many families, and raising taxes now might even end up driving them out of their homes.
But we all have to realize what’s at stake. Losing our public safety would mean the end of a safe city – and then we would all lose out.
Raising taxes wouldn’t be the only answer, though. Our police and fire unions would also have to agree to overhaul their contracts. The city would need to have a two-tier hiring system, where new-hires earn considerably less and receive fewer benefits.
It would also mean the end of a fixed guaranteed pension plan. Ferndale just did this with its Fire Department, so this concept isn’t coming out of left field.
Recently, city councilmembers met in a budget work session to see where Hamtramck is heading. We are looking straight at a $3.4 million budget deficit by next June.
There were some ideas tossed around, but clearly, time is running out.
And since that meeting, we have heard of little forward movement on some of the proposals made at the meeting.
Now is not the time to sit on our hands and wait. Let’s be proactive and, at the very least, allow voters to decide what to do. We could get a millage proposal on the May ballot.
Let our voters have a chance to weigh in on Hamtramck’s survival.