The Townships' Revenge
Ping lives in Lodi Township, which contracts with the county sheriff's department to provide local police patrols. Under a four-year contract that expires in 2009, the cost per deputy shot up from $96,000 a year to $142,000-an average annual increase of 12 percent. Next year, though, the cost will rise just 2 percent-thanks to a resolution Ping and her township allies passed in November.
The move left Ann Arbor commissioners seething. "This is a benefit for townships without police forces like Ypsilanti, Superior, and Scio at the expense of the county," asserts Leah Gunn, "and at the expense of those jurisdictions that have their own police forces like Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti City, and Saline." The city commissioners say that even after the recent increases, the townships still aren't paying the true cost of patrols-and that the new resolution will make things worse. Board chair Jeff Irwin says the county's cost to put a deputy on the road is expected to increase by 4 to 4.5 percent next year-leaving a several-hundred-thousand-dollar hole in the sheriff's budget that will probably have to be filled from the general fund.
"There's going to be a human toll for this," predicts Irwin. Barbara Levin Bergman explains that with falling home values cutting into property tax receipts, "we're already being forced to cut between thirty and forty general-fund positions. This'll just make it thirty-five or forty-five."