Austintown to discuss adding new police levy to ballot

AUSTINTOWN — Township trustees will discuss a new levy for police services at today’s regular meeting.

Township Administrator Mark D’Apolito said the continuous 2.4-mill levy is expected to generate nearly $2.6 million annually, which will help to offset the rising cost of modern policing. Voters will be asked to approve the levy in November.

D’Apolito said the township is seeking a new levy to preserve state contributions — called rollbacks — to existing levies, which would be lost if the township pursued a replacement.

Austintown already has four police levies on the books: the original 0.8-mill levy from 1983, a 3.2-mill levy from 2006, a 2-mill levy from 2012, and a 3.2-mill levy from 2018. Collectively, those generate $5.6 million annually, D’Apolito said.

But increasing costs have pushed the police department beyond its budget.

“We anticipate them to be into the general fund for roughly $1 million by the end of the year,” D’Apolito said. “It was $1.2 million, but with some cuts and adjustments, we were able to save about $200,000.”

D’Apolito said some cuts were made to training programs and the department changed the way it staffs officers. Police also saved some money by deferring equipment purchases that did not yet need to be replaced, including new police cruisers.

“If we don’t replace them, we usually end up paying for it in maintenance costs, so that was a one-time savings opportunity,” he said.

D’Apolito said that, next to staffing, software and evidence collection, have become a major expense.

“The software that goes into policing anymore is far greater than it was 10 years ago, and even far greater than it was for the last levy,” he said.

D’Apolito said statistical reporting software has become a regular part of police budgets, and video is used much more regularly, including police body cameras, Ring and Nest doorbell cameras, Google video, and commercial surveillance system video. He said the costs come both from acquiring the video and the time it takes police to track it down and log it properly.

“It’s a good thing they’re getting it, because it makes crimes more solvable, but it needs to be preserved, and preserved in a way that the court will recognize it as evidence,” he said. “It’s the technology that jurors have come to expect to see when a criminal case is presented.”

As an example of the expenses the department incurs, the agenda for today’s meeting includes four funding requests from the police department, including:

•   $10,974 for radio usage fees.

•   11,831 for dispatch center software maintenance.

•   $50,793.50 to outfit and equip the department’s newest cruisers that just arrived from the previous year’s order.

•   $21,536 for mobile data terminals for cruisers.


Trustees also will be asked to approve an amendment to the township’s contract with the firefighters union to increase the pay for the fire inspector position.

D’Apolito said long-time inspector Rick Milliron is expected to retire soon, and the department will conduct an internal job bidding process to fill his position from one of its senior firefighters.

That required the township to raise the pay level for the position to be even with the pay scale for a senior firefighter. A senior firefighter makes $63,825 in 2024, while the rate for an entry-level inspector is $62,275.

“They’re going to take a pay cut anyway by virtue of losing overtime pay,” D’Apolito said. Inspectors work about 700 hours less per year than a senior firefighter.


Trustees are expected to approve a $14,000 bid from Thomas Fok and Associates, Inc. for the North Wickliffe Neighborhood Sidewalk Improvements project, which is a Community Development Block Grant project. The township received about $200,000 federal funds through the Mahoning County xommissioners for it. This phase includes completing the plans and finalizing the application.

“This one is near and dear to my heart,” D’Apolito said.

Typically, sidewalk repairs are the homeowner’s responsibility. But D’Apolito said federal law allows local governments, in qualified census tracts, to improve sidewalks for increased walkability.

“So, we were awarded that money to address the sidewalks and tree removal, based on slabs that are most hazardous for people walking through,” he said. “We look forward to providing that neighborhood some common improvements.”

The township also will award a $320,400 contract to Rudzik Excavating Inc. for maintenance and upgrades to the retention pond along Wilcox Road, owned by Walmart.

The project is intended to protect the neighborhoods around Wilcox Road from flooding should the retention pond on the west side of Walmart fail. The pond discharges underneath Wilcox Road into a nearby stream.

.”The original pond was installed under different stormwater standard practices,” D’Apolito said. “It would be a whole different pond if you built that today.”

He said the improvements likely will include various culverts to slow down the water flow to the pond. While there has been no flooding beyond the boundaries of the pond, D’Apolito said crews have had to perform maintenance that should not be necessary for a retention pond.

He said that has included clearing logs, dirt and sediment from the pond’s outflow, because it’s not staying in the basin, which could cause problems with heavy rainfall.

He said many of the necessary upgrades are still in the design phase because the project requires the improvements to be made within the existing footprint of the retention pond.

“We need to renovate the pond to accommodate the water flow it’s receiving because it has deteriorated over the years,” D’Apolito said.

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