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Police funding issue back before council

How to pay for additional police officers is up for discussion Tuesday, Jan. 2, by the Ashland City Council. The issue was due for discussion at the council's Dec. 19 meeting, but with Councilors Rich Rosenthal and Stefani Seffinger absent, it was continued to this week's meeting, when all councilors are expected to be present.

The council in March authorized hiring five new officers. The police department has hired one and is about to hire another. The department also reassigned one officer from working on a regional partnership to Ashland patrol, leaving two more officers to be hired to reach the staffing level approved by the council.

Each officer costs about $110,000 per year.

The first two officers were paid for by raising the property tax rate 4.5 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation, adding a 50 cent per month fee on electric meters and designating marijuana tax receipts to go to the police department.

The council needs to find $440,000 in new revenue or expenditure reductions elsewhere in the budget to pay for the two remaining officers for the current biennial budget.

Proposed new revenue sources include a 1 percent increase in the transient occupancy tax, an additional $1 per month per electric meter fee, a 1 percent live entertainment ticket tax, an additional property tax increase, and installation of parking meters in public parking lots.

The staff recommendation is to adopt a $2 per month fee on electric meters.

The meeting is set to start at 7 p.m. in the Ashland City Council chamber, 1175 East Main St. Proceedings are cablecast live on Channel 9 (or 180), streamed online at rvtv.sou.edu, and posted online at bit.ly/coavideos the day after the meeting.