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August 27, 2013

Benzie County proposes millage for more deputies

BEULAH — Benzie County officials will ask voters in November for tax money to hire additional sheriff’s deputies.

Sheriff Ted Schendel said the four-year, 1.5-mill millage request approved Monday by Benzie County commissioners would help his department add four road patrol deputies. He said the millage would only be a net increase of 0.6 mills for taxpayers because the request eliminates an existing 0.9 millage for county jail operations.

“This would allow me to reach my goal of having two deputies on 24 hours a day every day,” he said.

There currently are eight deputies in the department, but none work between 3 and 7 a.m. and go out on an “on call” basis.

County Administrator Chris Olson said the millage would raise a net of $660,000 a year — or $1.68 million if the jail millage isn’t eliminated — and be on the December tax bills if approved by voters.

“It would cover sheriff’s office operations for pretty much everything short of jail expenses,” he said.

Commissioner Roger Griner said the proposal would put jail operations back under the county’s general fund. He said most commissioners believe the millage should cover all the costs of operating the sheriff’s department other than the jail, but noted Schendel had a “different view.”

Schendel said he would not have supported the original ballot language because it was not specific enough for taxpayers or guaranteed “24/7” law enforcement coverage, but commissioners made the changes he wanted.

“The people need to know where the money goes,” he said.

Schendel said the millage money would allow the department to increase its manpower to a total of 12 road patrol deputies. That would allow the department to start a 12-hour shift rotation, with six officers covering a day shift and night shift, respectively.

Olson said county officials met last week to discuss shifting funds to pay for jail operations.

“There’ll be further information later (that) we’ll be providing to the taxpayers so they can fairly appraise this millage proposal along with the others proposed in Benzie County,” he said.

Other millages on the November ballot include a 1-mill levy requested by the Benzie County Road Commission and .1-mill renewal for county animal control.

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