ST. JOSEPH — For the first time in 20 years, St. Joseph Township voters next March will be asked to approve a millage increase for public safety.

The township board voted Monday night to seek a 1.613 mill increase in taxes to fund the police and fire departments and ambulance service. The current public safety millage, with a Headlee rollback applied, is 4.3870, down from the 4.5 mills voters approved in 2000. That millage expires Dec. 31, 2020.

The new millage, a five-year request, would bring the total to 6 mills, beginning with 2021 taxes. The owner of a home with a taxable value of $100,000 would see an increase of $161.30 per year, Township Manager Denise Cook said. 

“That is a chunk, but it’s what we need to have to make it work,” said Township Supervisor Roger Seely. “We stuck our necks out years ago going with a 20-year levy.”

Trustees pointed out that although property owners will pay more in taxes if the new levy is approved, insurance rates are favorable because the township maintains strong public safety departments. Seely said the township has the best insurance rating possible, as it relates to fire protection.

St. Joseph Township maintains its own police department and two on-call fire stations, and uses and pays Medic 1 for ambulance service.

Cook said the current millage collection does not cover annual expenses. It is estimated that operating expenses for public safety for 2021 through 2025 will cost between $2,362,000 and $2,658,500 each year. 

The millage request, if approved by voters, would generate about $2.6 million the first year, with $700,853 coming from the 1.6 mill increase. Cook said inflation and cost of living increases have caused operation costs for public safety to increase by an average of 3 percent per year over the last 11 years.

The proposal will be on the March 10, 2020 ballot.

Contact: jswidwa@TheHP.com, 932-0359, Twitter: @HPSwidwa