UPDATED: Pittsfield Public Safety Millage Gets Second Chance
The proposal to increase taxes to fund Pittsfield Township’s Department of Public Safety is going back before the voters. The Board of Trustees voted in a special meeting on July 21 to present a ballot proposal on the November 2 election to replace the current 1.95 millage with a 2.95 millage.
The millage question as passed is: “As a replacement of the existing 1.95 mills previously authorized for public safety purposes expiring in 2021, shall the limitation on the amount of taxes which may be imposed on taxable property within the Charter Township of Pittsfield, County of Washtenaw, Michigan be increased in the amount not to exceed 2.95 mills, for a period of five years, beginning in the year 2021 and ending in the year 2025, inclusive, as new additional millage for the purpose of providing funds to the Department of Public Safety for operating expenses, for sworn police officers, firefighters and support personnel; for the replacement of additional fire apparatus and equipment acquisition; for improvements, renovations, repair and maintenance of existing facilities; and for related program support for the Department of Public Safety.”
This ballot proposal is slightly different than the previous version that the Trustees have been considering. Matthew Harshberger, the Director of Public Safety, went back to the attorneys at the request of the township to modify the statement to make it clearer that the millage proposal would replace the current one, which expires this year, with a new, higher millage. It is not in addition to the current millage.
The township estimates that it would generate $6,528,207 this year, if passed.
Pittsfield Township voters rejected the last ballot initiative last spring, which was 3.95 mills. The Township says that the increase is needed to hire more officers, replace aging equipment and improve the facility on Michigan Avenue. Doing that while providing services to a generally increasing population is not possible with the current millage rate, according to township officials.
Some Pittsfield citizens have taken that explanation at face value but some have not. The township has taken steps to be more transparent and spend more time making the case for the increase this time around. Director of Public Safety Matthew Harshberger made the case before voters at a town hall, earlier this summer.
Whether Harshberger will still be in his position this autumn is an open question however. He informed the Trustees Wednesday evening that he is one of five candidates to be the next Director of Public Safety at Eastern Michigan University; the police force that patrols and enforces law at the campus.
“I have been the Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police for Pittsfield Charter Township for the past twelve years. I have worked closely with Supervisor Mandy Grewal as part of her team and with the Board of Trustees on many projects and public safety initiatives. I am very proud of the many accomplishments that we have achieved together,” Harshberger wrote in a memo to the Board. “Ultimately, I may not be selected for the EMU position. Please know that if that turns out to be the case, I am very happy and committed to continue serving the residents, businesses and visitors of Pittsfield Charter Township and being part of Supervisor Grewal’s leadership team.”
Like the other five candidates, Harshberger says he will be taking half a day, Friday, with the department he is applying to lead tomorrow and will be spending the early part of next week being interviewed by the Board of Regents at Eastern Michigan University.
"He is among several finalist candidates. We hope to have the position filled in the next several weeks," EMU spokeswoman Morgan Mark said in an email, Thursday.
The Board of Regents will then make a decision. Supervisor Many Grewal called the chances that EMU not choose Harshberger “slim.”
“We have been fortunate to have Harshberger here,” Pittsfield Clerk Michelle Anzaldi said. “They would be lucky to have you.”
Trustee Yameen Jaffer also voiced support for Harshberger’s decision, but added “We still want you to stay.”