Cuts to Springfield fire, police to be restored soon after tax passes

The city of Springfield will restore cuts to police and fire services soon after voters approved an income tax increase on Tuesday.

Springfield residents will begin to see the impact of the income tax increase in July when the police substation on West Johnny Lytle Avenue and the fire station on Commerce Road reopen — both stations closed Jan. 1 due to budget cuts. July 1 is also when collection on the higher taxes will begin.

“The community got behind us … But now it’s incumbent on us as the city employees to deliver,” Springfield Police Chief Steve Moody said.

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Residents voted in favor to raise the city’s income tax for 5½ years from 2 percent to 2.4 percent, approving it with more than 66 percent of the vote. The increase will bring more than $6 million to the city in a full year, Springfield City Manager Jim Bodenmiller said.

“It’s obviously a very good feeling to know that you have the support of the community,” he said.

The police and fire stations closed after the income tax was defeated by about 200 votes on the November ballot. The West Johnny Lytle substation had been home to the police division’s community response team.

“We felt that impact,” Moody said. “The neighborhoods have felt that impact.”

The community response team is down to one officer, he said, but he plans to build it back up.

The city was successful in their campaign to pass the levy this time, Bodenmiller said, because Springfield residents started to feel the impact of the cuts.

“Unfortunately having to close the stations and layoff employees and you see services being affected really gets people’s attention,” he said.

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Rick Lelewis lives next to the substation. The police presence there made a difference, he said.

“They had programs over here all the time,” he said, “especially for the kids, that the kids really enjoyed. Just having them here, having that presence here in the neighborhood … kind of kept things in order a little bit.”

The police division will also begin hiring more officers, Moody said, and form a Safe Streets Task Force to focus on gun violence and drug traffickers.

“We had a task force about 10 years ago,” he said, “and it was extremely effective at getting the supply of drugs off the street and dealing with some of the crime directly.”

More officers in the streets will help police respond to the increased calls for service, he said. Calls were up 7 percent in 2016.

“We’re able to go out and be proactive instead of reactive on these problems that face our neighborhoods,” he said.

The city will also be able to purchase new equipment for the police and fire divisions, Bodenmiller said.

Police and fire crews also saw overtime cuts this year. The city still wants to reduce the amount of overtime whenever possible, Bodenmiller said.

“Even with this new revenue,” he said, “we still have to be very careful with our spending.”

By the numbers

$6.7 million: Money the income tax increase would generate annually, if approved.

2 percent: Current income tax rate in Springfield.

2.4 percent: Proposed income tax rate in Springfield through 2022.

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