Crofton board undecided about adding sixth police officer Taxes would have to be raised


Crofton leaders last night debated whether they should raise taxes to increase the community's five-member police force.

Some leaders were reluctant to decide the issue on their own and the proposal may be placed before voters who live in the special tax district.

"Crime has gotten to be a national concern," said Jim Collett, one of 13 members of the board of directors of the Crofton Civic Association and head of the public safety committee. He cited a recent USA Today poll which found that 80 percent of Americans would pay higher taxes for more police.

"There are always going to be people who commit crimes," Mr. Collett said. "Part of what our force does is keep them out of Crofton."

It would cost Crofton about $21,000 to hire a sixth police officer for six months, which would require a one-cent increase in the tax rate of 28 cents per $100 of assessed value. Each homeowner would pay an average of $8 more in taxes.

The expansion of the Police Department is part of a proposed $586,000 spending plan for fiscal 1995 which begins next July 1, a 5 percent increase over this year's $558,000 budget.

Budget deliberations are scheduled again for Monday.

Expanding the Police Department, which supplements county police service, would increase the department's budget from $248,000 to $305,000, an 18 percent increase when benefits, insurance and extras such as equipment are figured in.

In proposing additional police, Town Manager Barbara Swann said the number of officers has remained constant since the community was formed 25 years ago, while population has increased from 6,000 to 9,000 during that time.

Mr. Collett said it boils down to whether Crofton wants its officers patrolling the community 24 hours a day.

Police Chief Deborah Bogush said the officers do not patrol from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. three days a week. While county officers also patrol the area in which Crofton is located, they are not always in the special tax district, she said.

But board member Ed Ganning, who failed in a straw vote to eliminate the funding for half a police officer, said he cannot justify increasing taxes.

"My phone has been ringing off the hook with people upset that we may raise taxes," he said.

Board member Marcia Richard said the civic association recently sent out petitions to residents asking them to support expanding the tax district to include new developments. Additional revenue from expansion would help "keep the tax rate at its lowest possible level," she said.

Other board members said the issue was too important to be decided by them.

"People are willing to pay more in taxes for better police protection," Mary Feeley said. "I think we should take this to the voters and see if they are willing to pay for the increase."

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