By Jordan Puckett
The Village of New Richmond is considering contracting for police, fire, or EMS services, or putting new tax levies on the next ballot.
The village has had budget concerns for years. The police department is currently spending $100,000 more than the amount they receive in police levies. Further, Duke Energy is closing the Beckjord plant in New Richmond at the end of 2014.
The village will lose about $330,000 with the closing of the plant. $40,000 of this will be taken from the general fund, $125,000 from the police department, $40,000 from the fire department, and $125,000 from EMS services.
Village Council member Nicholas Wolf gave his proposal for a possible solution during the May 14 council meeting.
“Over the last month, with our budget concern, I have tried to come up with a questionnaire or a survey,” Wolf said. A letter written by Wolf was passed out to the other council members. The letter outlines his proposal to the people of New Richmond.
“How important is it to keep our own police, fire, and EMS departments?” the letter asks. “Should we consider eliminating our departments and contracting with someone else if we can save taxpayers’ money?”
Wolf says that if the village decides against contracting, a $10 mill levy is necessary to raise the funds that will be lost with the closing of the Beckjord station.
Wolf, along with the other members of council, wants the opinions of the citizens of New Richmond. Wolf wants to include his letter in the next water bill, to be filled out and returned to the Clerk of New Richmond. At the bottom are 4 options: Put an earnings tax levy on the ballot and keep emergency departments, put a property tax levy on the ballot and keep emergency departments, save money and contract with other villages and townships, or “do nothing now. Wait for Beckjord to close.”
Other council members want to expand the survey to include more options.
“I”m a little concerned with how generic it is,” said council member Richard Feldkamp. “I wouldn’t want to vote on something without knowing the consequence of my vote.”
Amanda Davidson suggested doing an online survey. She argued that this would have more anonymity and the survey could be expanded with more questions.
Council hopes to issue the survey soon in order to get a response in time for the November ballot. Citizens of New Richmond are encouraged to voice their opinions in order to help council make a decision on this issue.