When Pataskala lost its village status and became a town in 1996, it had 20 police officers and a population of around 9,000. Today, its population has doubled, but there is only one more officer in the force than 25 years ago.
The police department has not kept pace with the growth, which is why city officials are calling on voters in the Nov. 2 election to approve an income tax hike to increase numbers and put the service in a better position, said Mayor Mike Compton.
Residents last approved a 1% income tax in 2010, and this money is used for both police divisions and roads / streets.
Read more:How did the Pataskala officials decide on the increase in income tax?
“It’s like an increase in the cost of living. It’s time to give us a little push,” Compton said. “When it comes to running a police department, it starts to get a bit crucial.”
Voters will be asked to add 0.5% income tax to what’s already on the books. If approved, the measure would add credit for commuters, meaning those who live in Pataskala but work elsewhere could receive up to 0.25% credit. The tax would be permanent.
The current income tax generates around $ 7.1 million per year, and the increase is expected to add at least $ 1.4 million to that each year, said Jamie Nicholson, chief financial officer of Pataskala.
The police department’s current budget is approximately $ 3.7 million.
The city attempted an increase last spring, but it failed. Compton said he believed residents supported the issue, but the 2020 primary election was blurred by confusion.
Yet during this campaign for a raise, residents have said loud and clear to city officials two things: they want suburban credit (which was added on this poll issue) and they want to know precisely where the money will go. money.
For the latter, Compton and Police Chief Bruce Brooks told them. They say the goal of the new money will be to hire and equip six new officers so that at any given time more men and women in uniform are patrolling at all times.
And, said Brooks, the reality is that the city needs to increase the salaries of its officers if it is to attract and keep talented officers. The starting salary is now less than $ 20 an hour. And agents frequently leave for higher pay, even to nearby agencies, which means they don’t even have to relocate.
The point is, more officers means more protection for everyone, the chief said. And just because Pataskala isn’t a big city, it’s one of the most vibrant. And it is not immune to violent crime: there have been two homicides this year.
“Right now we’re pretty much reactionary. We don’t have time to sit down and work on traffic control, and our guys aren’t seen on the streets as much as we would like because they are in a neighborhood making reports, ”he added. he said. “I think people deserve safe neighborhoods. I think everyone wants safe neighborhoods.”