Since taking office in January of this year, there have been many rewarding moments in my short tenure as mayor of Tiffin. I have long stated that I would rather be a one-term mayor who does the right things for Tiffin than become a politician who occupies an office just to keep it warm. Therefore, I feel as though I owe it to the residents of our community to detail the looming cuts if the quarter of a percent income tax increase does not pass in November.
The stark reality facing Tiffin citizens is that the state is cutting more than $800,000 from our general fund budget. By law, Tiffin must have a balanced budget at the end of every year. A quarter of a percent income tax would bring in an estimated $960,000 to replace the state funding cuts. If the income tax increase fails, Tiffin must cut slightly more than $800,000 from our budget. The cuts will be deep, with our safety service forces bearing the brunt of the cuts. The police and fire departments are facing more than $500,000 cut between the two budgets.
The fire department is likely to be reduced down a full one-third from its full strength. At times, Station 2 would be closed, adding to our emergency response times. Furthermore, we would not have enough firefighter/paramedics to respond immediately to a seriously ill or injured patient if they are a second or third emergency call. It is certain that some individuals would be told that they must wait because all squads are currently busy. I know I never want any of my loved ones to hear this answer from a dispatcher.
The police department is currently down seven officers and with additional cuts coming, that situation would not improve. As many of you are aware, we are fighting a war on drugs all across the nation. The story is very similar here in Tiffin. With the continued reduction in the police department budget, there is a very real possibility that our ability to operate our first-class drug operations could very well be in jeopardy.
Tiffin has been lucky to have been spared the brunt of the drug-related issues many communities in our area have experienced. What would a drastic cut or possible elimination of the drug task force in Tiffin signal to the dealers of illegal drugs? My fear is it creates the "open for business" mentality that undoubtedly would cause an increase in drug use and drug-related crimes in Tiffin. Can we really risk exposing not only our children but all of our loved ones?
If you remember, there was a rash of breaking and entries just this summer. Nearly all of the home invasions were drug related. What will happen to this number if the criminals know the police department staffing has been further reduced and there is no drug task force? I sincerely hope we do not have to find out.
As you just read, the cuts to police and fire are the ones which cause me to lose sleep every night. Unfortunately, they are not the only cuts coming if the increase fails. Snowfalls always seem to always occur overnight or on weekends, which leads to the city paying very expensive overtime. From Jan. 1 on, we cannot afford the overtime to plow residential streets overnight or on weekends. Residential street plowing will have to wait until normal Monday-through-Friday work hours. Other cuts to be coming include closing Tiffin City Pool, elimination of the Fourth of July festival and fireworks, the elimination of all summer park programs, the crossing guard program would cease to exist after Dec. 31, and the brush pile and leaf pickup programs likely would be unaffordable after this year.
If the tax is voted down, the above mentioned cuts would go into effect by Jan. 1, 2013. I would like to ask you to think about this and reflect deeply before Election Day. The average Tiffin family would pay less than 25 cents per day, less than $91 per year, if this increase passes. Can't we all afford to give up a few cups of coffee per month in order to maintain all the safety services mentioned above?
Please join me in voting for the one quarter of one percent income tax increase Nov. 6.