Last year, Lucas County Commissioners and the Sheriff’s office announced that they would no longer provide sheriff’s protection at no charge to nine unincorporated areas in the county, including Jerusalem Township, starting Jan. 1 of this year. Due to budgetary constraints, communities would have to start paying for the service.
The notification sent townships scrambling for ways to raise funds to continue getting their current level of services from the sheriff, or contract with adjacent communities for police protection. To maintain its current level of service – one deputy per eight hour shift - Jerusalem Township, which has a population of 3,181 within a 30.4 square mile area, would be charged $347,000 annually. For the township, which has a $1.7 million budget, the cost was too steep.
Commissioners then agreed to allow the township to pay just 65 percent of the amount for the first year, 80 percent the second year, then 100 percent the third year had the levy passed.
If the township did not pay for continued patrols, deputies would only respond to emergency calls.
Trustees placed a 3.5-mill levy on the ballot last year that would have raised revenue to pay the sheriff to continue patrolling the township. But voters defeated the measure by a two to one margin.
As of press time, the sheriff’s office has continued to provide the township with one deputy per eight hour shift, even though the Jan. 1 deadline has long passed.
“We have a $1.7 operating budget. You do the math. We don’t have the money,” Kiss told The Press last week. “It sounds great. We’d love to do our best for the department. But I’m not a magician. The people defeated a levy. It costs quite a bit of money to throw something on the ballot - $18,000. It got defeated so badly, we weren’t going to throw another levy on the ballot just for the hell of it.”
Kiss and two of the other trustees met recently with Sheriff James Telb to discuss their options.
“We told him he was initially asking for one-fifth of our total operating budget. How are we supposed to come up with that? It’s like someone saying to the average person, `We need you to come up with another mortgage payment without a pay raise.’ It’s just not going to happen,” said Kiss.
Telb wants the trustees to come up with a figure they could afford, said Kiss.
“He wants us to work something out by the first of the year. Obviously, the first of the year is slowly coming upon us. We haven’t found any pot of gold at the end of the rainbow laying around in the budget. We left the meeting with the understanding that he really wants us to try and work something out, come up with a figure we can afford – whether it’s $1,000 or $10,000 per month – see if we can come up with something – then we’ll talk about it,” said Kiss.
Then we can maybe talk about it,” said Kiss. “He kind of put the ball in our court basically saying, `See what you can do for us, then we’ll see what we can do together,”’ said Kiss.
“The trustees have been talking here and there, but there’s been no definitive decision,” said Kiss. “We’re individually scrutinizing what we could possibly do to come up with some type of conclusion.”
Trustees provide a substation next to the town hall to the sheriff’s office at no charge The township pays for the substation’s utilities and other costs.
“We provide them with a substation and pay for their heat, computer and electricity. They don’t want to give us any credit for that,” said Kiss. “We even talked about paying for their gas. There’s other things we can do.”
Springfield Township, which is in a similar situation as Jerusalem Township, has been hit hard with car break-ins, vandalism, and other crime in the last several months. There has been no uptick in crime in Jerusalem Township, said Kiss.
“I haven’t seen anything out of the ordinary. We’ve been very fortunate,” said Kiss.