Meridian Township officials discuss proposed fire and police millage ahead of vote

MERIDIAN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WLNS) – Voters in Meridian Township will soon decide whether to approve a EMS/Fire and Police millage in the upcoming August 8 election.

6 News spoke with Meridian Township Manager Frank Walsh Tuesday, ahead of the vote, to see what the millage was all about.

Walsh said the proposed millage will go toward three main things: hiring two additional firefighters and two more police officers, upgrading and replacing equipment and paying back an underfunded pension liability.

“If we don’t pay it off now, in 10 years it’s going to cost us $15 million more to pay it off over 20 years,” Walsh said. “It has to be paid off.”

The millage will create about $2.5 million per year to go toward the police and fire departments. When you break that down, $500,000 will go to hiring additional staff, $500,000 will go to upgrading equipment and $1.5 million will go to pay back the pension liability deficit.

This breakdown has been a point of contention, especially when it comes to the pension deficit.

One group that is concerned is the group Meridian Liason for Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation, or LINC. 6 News spoke with Eckhart Dersch, vice president of the group and a Meridian Township voter.

Dersch said he was most concerned about how the pension deficit happened, and how Meridian Township officials planned to keep it from happening again.

“In the end they give us the numbers but it doesn’t answer the question why we find ourselves in the position of having to bail police and fire system out,” Dersch said.

However, Walsh said Meridian Township has never had the funding to make sure a deficit like this wouldn’t happen, and the millage is the answer to their problem.

“We have done and actuarial study to know exactly what we have to pay to pay this off over 10 years,” Walsh said. “It’s the one and a half million dollars that we’re going for.”

Dersch said some still may think it’s better to wait and work out the details.

“People might be interested in wanting to buy time, to not pass it isn’t going to cause a catastrophe,” he said.

But Walsh said waiting will be worse in the long-run.

“We’ll still have to pay off the million and a half dollars per year for the unfunded pension liability starting in 2018 so therefore we’ll have to reduce our expenses by that amount,” Walsh said. “That’s going to have a devastating effect on the township.”

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